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'I feel like it saved my life': Jacksonville journalist Margo Pope reflects on her mother showing her Buddy Check decades ago

Margo Pope is a beloved local journalist, a columnist and reporter for 42 years. She explains how her mother began Buddy Check 31 years ago. The impact-huge.

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — Margo Pope is a beloved local journalist, who has written columns and articles for the St. Augustine Record and Florida Times Union for 42 years.

She is passionate about her career.  And St. Augustine. Ask her the history of the Pena-Peck House on St. George Street and she lights up with a string of dates and fascinating facts.  (It was built in 1750, she explains.)

One double-digit number, though, is especially significant to her life.  That number is 31.

Why? All those years ago, Buddy Check launched on First Coast News to inspire women to remind each other to do self exams and catch breast cancer early.  Margo says that's when her mother grabbed onto the idea and encouraged Margo and her sister to do Buddy Check.

Breast cancer ran through several generations of Margo's family.  Her mother ordered a Buddy Check kit and told her daughters, Margo says, "You have to pay attention to this. It's important."  

She told them, "You need to be checking your breasts."  Margo says she knew on Buddy Check Day, every 12th of the month, she better look for lumps.  

Margo says it was a serious and loving lesson.  Margo says, "If I walked through her door on the 12th of every month, I'd better be able to tell her, 'Yes. I've already checked.'" 

Credit: Margo Pope
Family of Margo Pope

And the result?  Margo says, "I feel like it saved my life."  It was 23 years ago that Margo found a lump in her breast.  She says it was quite firm and the length of part of her finger. 

Now Margo tells women, "Even if you're not a generational survivor like I am, it doesn't mean it can't happen to you."

In fact, medical experts say most breast cancers do not carry a genetic link; that is, they don't seem to run in families. The number one risk factor for breast cancer is simply being a woman. (And, yes, men can get breast cancer. But 99% of cases are female.) 

Credit: First Coast News
Buddy Check has saved thousands of lives in the Jacksonville area and around the world.

Margo has written about Buddy Check over the years.  One column included a powerful sentence of hers.  It's simple. But it's should inspire women to check.  

She wrote, "Buddy Check works."  Margo is proof.

Talking with Margo gives a sense of perspective many women don't have.  She recalls writing years ago that she was "a victim" of breast cancer.  Now, she says, she would not use the word, "victim." 

She says, "I would say, 'survivor.'" They're warriors in the battle against breast cancer.  Margo has become a wonderful speaker at events to encourage women. 

And back to Margo's mother.  The memories are sweet of her mom in the family rocking chair, rocking her young daughters and singing, "You Are My Sunshine."

To honor her mother, Margo gives a glittering sunflower brooch to friends.  It symbolizes the bright light her mom infused into her family. 

Credit: First Coast News
Sunflower brooch to honor Margo Pope's mother and her lifesaving advice

Bright light...and smart advice.

If you would like a Buddy Check kit with a waterproof reminder card about self exams, click here.  

If Buddy Check has helped her find your breast cancer, First Coast News anchor Jeannie Blaylock would love to hear from you. Email her here.

Buddy Check is a joint project with Baptist/MD Anderson in Jacksonville.

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