October marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month
It strikes fear in the hearts of many women. And as a breast cancer survivor, I can’t begin the month of October without reminding everyone that it has been set aside as Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
We are all familiar with the pink ribbons, pink T-shirts and pink balloons that remind us of the toll the future may present. Pink is the signature color for breast cancer. There will be many fundraisers, walks and events to bring awareness of what some have described as an epidemic disease to the female population. We try to be cognizant of all the other great causes stemming from illnesses that we need to support, but for October, we want to focus on breast cancer.
What the statistics tell us is that although the numbers are declining every year, one in eight women will face that diagnosis. What the numbers don’t tell us are the stories behind these statistics. For breast cancer, although it can be found in men, almost universally strikes women, the very fabric of our society. That means mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, friends, and neighbors. Women, often described as a nurturing group at best, are forced sometimes to put up a valiant fight for survival.
Breast cancer is a sneaky little monster. Many of us had no family history or any physical findings when we heard our own diagnosis. We diligently had yearly checkups and went about our business, leaving thoughts of cancer by the wayside. We felt safe because we were careful and proactive in our healthcare.
But cancer doesn’t care about our lives and what station we hold. Fortunately for women, we have one weapon in our arsenal to help us against the silent footsteps of breast cancer. And that is the mammogram.
Without this test, I firmly believe there would be considerably fewer survivors. Women often note this is an uncomfortable exam, but it is nothing compared to the trials of the ravages of the disease itself. Just think, if you could head this off with a test and treatment, what it would mean to millions of women.
I can attest to the fact that chemotherapy is no day at the beach. There were many of those days I felt I had to stop, but I always gave it one more treatment, as much for my family as for myself. And that is the trap cancer puts upon women. So many of us have other responsibilities that the idea of giving in to this beast is just not possible. Radiation therapy may be exhausting, but it will be another rung on the ladder.
Women have learned to put one foot in front of the other and to take every day as it comes and make something out of it. To be a breast cancer survivor and to walk out in the sun today and know you have overcome the most vile enemy you will ever face is huge.
I knew a young woman who was diagnosed when she was just in her late 30s. She had young children and a devoted husband. Things went downhill very fast once she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and eventually it snatched her like a coward in the dead of night.
Today there is a butterfly garden in her memory. And I’d like to just note the short poem spoken at the garden’s dedication. It’s called Meredith’s Inspiration Garden:
A butterfly lights beside us like a sunbeam,
And for a brief moment
Its glory and beauty belong to our world
But then it flies away again
And, though we wished it could have stayed,
We feel so lucky to have seen it.
This is why we wear pink ribbons and bracelets and participate in walks. Do it today for all those who survive or succumb to breast cancer.