JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Buddy Check 12 program was created in 1992, at a time when women were not as comfortable to speak freely about their bodies as they are now. First Coast News Anchor Jeannie Blaylock found that out the hard way as she began a push that would force men and women to openly talk about an issue many shied away from; breast cancer.
"When I see women now in shirts that say 'save the tatas' that's victory,” said Blaylock. “And we can even laugh about it now. We've come so far."
25 years ago, it was a more conservative time. Even Blaylock’s mother was apprehensive at first about a program that would go on to save countless lives.
"My mom is from the era when Desi and Lucie Arnaz didn't even sleep in the same bed so this is all new to her right,” said Blaylock. “I called her and said we should start doing self-breast exams. Let's pick a day of the month and we'll remind each other. She said ok (laughter) she said does that mean I have to touch myself naked? That sounds nasty. And I'm like mom it's ok!”
She would have to echo the words “it’s ok” on television, in grocery stores and at local malls. Blaylock recalls being ignored as ladies walked past Buddy Check 12 tables set up outside of stores encouraging them to do self-exams.
"Back then women were embarrassed," said Blaylock.
But the feeling of having a loved one taken by a disease that could be treated if caught early enough tugged at her, having lost a close friend in the late 80s to breast cancer. Her friend was told by a doctor not to worry about a lump she found in her breast
“He said you're too young for breast cancer don't you worry about that you just focus on your pregnancy,” said Blaylock. “Back then she believed him. Now I think women are empowered and we would say I'm sorry I want another opinion. But she didn't know."
In 1992 Blaylock met a nurse at Baptist Health who was a breast cancer survivor. She showed her how to look for possibly cancerous lumps in her breast.
“She showed me a peppermint candy and a black eyed pea that wasn't cooked and she said that's what a breast cancer feels like,” said Blaylock. “And I thought I can explain that!"
It was time to move past the stigma and no longer be shy or afraid of combating breast cancer.
Baptist would later partner with First Coast News for a Buddy Check take over.
"Even at the TV station they said to me- are you going to show breasts on TV? And I'm like you bet," exclaimed Blaylock.
Buddy Check started out with 200 women in 1992. Four years later more than 192,000 women on the First Coast were reminding their buddies on the 12th of each month to do self-exams and 75 cities nationwide copied the program.
“Before we knew it we had thousands of calls,” said Blaylock. “One night southern bell called me, it was southern bell back then, and they said what did you do on the news last night? It shut down our computer system."
It soon caught on overseas. By 2002 the recorded number of survivors due to Buddy Check 12 stood at 400 women.
"I couldn't even count them anymore,” said Blaylock. “People say how many lives has it saved and it's gotta be thousands around the country too. Buddy Check is all about staying alive for the people you love."
If you would like a Buddy Check 12 packet call 904-202-CARE.