Every year as October rolls around I find myself full of mixed emotions.

My older sister was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 38, I will never forget that conversation as she told me. The fear and the sadness that overwhelmed me, only to be followed by a surge of adrenaline and a need to fight, to DO something to help.

Five years ago our mom was also diagnosed with breast cancer, and it became clear that it was only a matter of time before it would be my turn for a diagnosis.

I decided that if I was going to have to fight breast cancer I would throw the first punch, and in 2016 I have a preventive mastectomy and reconstruction surgery.

Cathy Holman

This surgery took my breast cancer risk down to 2%. To put that into perspective, the average woman walking on the street with no family history has a 12% risk.

It was the right choice for me and my family, and I decided that as a way to offer support to other women I would publicly share my journey. When I made the choice to have a mastectomy I couldn't find any information online telling me what it was like to undergo this surgery in your early 30's as a mother of five children.

When I had my surgeries I had no idea what was ahead for me, and I wanted to eliminate that fear for others.

Erin Potter Photography

I should have been prepared for the negativity and backlash from others in our community for publicly sharing my story...but I wasn't.

It hurt.

And it reminded me why Breast Cancer Awareness Month is so vital.

It showed me that there are still many people that are not comfortable talking about the need to check your breasts monthly.

There are still people that would rather shove uncomfortable conversations about how breast cancer affects your relationships under the rug rather than allow others to feel supported and seen.

So for this reason I LOVE Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

But, I also HATE it, because there are so many brands and companies that use this month to sell products for their own benefit and profit.

So, what can we do about it?

First, if you are purchasing a product that proclaims to be helping support breast cancer research make sure the company is truly working with valid charities and the money is going where they say it is.

Second, take time to look into breast cancer charities you are donating to and make sure your money is being used in an ethical and effective way. I recommend using CharityNavigator.org to search thousands of charities across the nation.

Last, if you want your money to specifically help Wyoming women and their families I recommend donating to the Wyoming Breast Cancer Initiative. When you donate your money to this organization you know that it's going directly to help Wyoming women and their families, you can learn more about this organization and its mission here.

Thinkstock

Wyoming currently ranks 48th in America for breast cancer screening.

But, what exactly does this mean?

Breast cancer screening (usually a mammogram) is the best method to detect breast cancer early.

Why is that important?

When breast cancer is discovered in the earlier stages there is a higher survival rate.

Right now, Wyoming women are dying, families are needlessly suffering.

And because of this, even though I have a love/hate relationship with Breast Cancer Awareness month you will still find shouting my story from the rooftops.

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