Mindi Edstrom had casually thought about a mammogram, but with no family history of breast cancer and no signs of concern, waiting a few extra years didn’t seem problematic. Besides, she was preoccupied with her back issues, her three boys, her career and the daily hustle of life. There was truly never a good time for unnecessary doctor’s visits.
But at 42, with back surgery suddenly on hold, she made an appointment and wriggled her breasts into the ultrasound machine that would, in one swift moment, change her life. She had a tumor. The tumor was cancerous. It was growing quickly. But it was treatable.
The diagnosis spiraled the Edstroms' life into the unknown. Mindi, you see, is a life force. She is the team mom, the power neighbor, the party thrower and everyone’s best friend. At first meeting, she makes you feel comfortable, loved and understood. When people like her go down, the world notices.
But for a time, down she had to go, to rest and recover. She had surgery, which was only partially successful, and started radiation. For the first time in a very long while, she had to stop giving and start receiving.
As she talks about the last few months, she cannot hold back the tears.
“It is so uncomfortable for me to be on this end of things. But people really are so good,” she said. “Our family could not have made it through without the meals, the rides, the cards, the prayers and support. My friends in the Parks and Rec Department painted pink ribbons on the football field. My son’s soccer team wore pink wristbands all season. My boys’ football teams placed pink M's on their helmets, wore pink socks and dedicated the season to me, which left me in a puddle of tears.
“People from all over the world from all different faiths tell me they are praying for me, and I feel it. Their prayers have strengthened me and changed my heart in a way I never understood until now. My doorbell almost never stops ringing with gifts, food and words of encouragement. People want to share in this journey with me, and it is lightening the burden and giving me hope.”
And hope is critical during these rough moments. Sitting on her couch, sapped of strength and unable to be her ideal self is an all too familiar feeling for Edstrom. Diagnosed with depression in her early 20s, positivity, energy and optimism have always been a choice she has had to force herself to make and service has always been her best medicine.
“Anytime I struggled in the past, I found someone to help and forgot about myself. One day, I realized that while I had every excuse to sit and wallow because of my cancer, what I really needed and wanted to do was find a small way I could serve. A way to say thank you to so many. A way to give back,” she said.
And so Edstrom made breast cancer awareness her cause. She wanted to ensure that every woman in her life would start taking breast health seriously and the first step to doing that is scheduling a mammogram. She has worked tirelessly disseminating information and encouragement through social media, but in true Edstrom fashion, she adds a sweet little twist.
For every woman who gets a mammogram this month, she offers a heart-shaped cookie decorated with a fancy pink bra. She calls her initiative “Cookies for Mammograms.” This small idea has helped 75 friends, family and co-workers make and follow through with their mammogram appointments. They send her a photo, dressed in a fashionable hospital gown, and she shows up at their door with a couple of her teenage boys or supportive husband, a tired smile and a playful treat to share. In these moments of common purpose, she knows that it really is all going to be OK.
“I would never wish for cancer, but it has given me such an incredible gift. It has taught our family that life is not easy, and that we have to face our problems head on with faith, work and honesty,” Edstrom said. “It has shown me that God knows who I am and is in the details of my life. He has always been in control. It has allowed me to lean on and trust my Savior like I never have before.
“It has reminded me that people want to show up, connect and feel needed and that there is so much good in the world. It has proven to me that I am loved and that giving love brings me joy. I have a purpose, a plan and a family who has unconditionally supported me through it all. It sounds strange, but I will forever be grateful for cancer.”