In case you haven’t been hit over the head with it yet, October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. As someone who lost a mother to Breast Cancer, this month, and breast cancer awareness movements in general have always seemed a little trite to me.
I recently got an email from my grad school encouraging the whole campus to wear pink one day.* What good is a group of people dressing up in pink going to do? Will these people–these young kids, 18, 19, 20 years old, really ‘get it’? Wearing pink will not bring my mother back.
I almost always immediately write off these sort of campaigns. I have a natural abhorrence to anything that could remotely be conceived as ‘corny’, and a bunch of people dressing up in pink and plastering signs about breast cancer awareness is to me the very essence of corny. Ironically, experiencing death at such a young age is without a doubt what has made me so jaded and apathetic to these types of ‘let’s all wear pink!! ra ra ra!’ pep rallies.
There is a difference between awareness and proactivity of a situation. It’s all well and good to be aware that breast cancer kills people. What can actually be done to end breast cancer–to help the survivors, not only of the cancer itself, but the family members left behind? Surely there can be something else besides having a pink pep rally.
Ladies, breast health is a non-negotiable. Make yearly OB/GYN appointments a priority. Breast self exams are the most important thing you can do.
Get genetic testing. Not only do they test for BRCA 1 & 2 genetic mutations now, but they are also testing for a whole slew of other genetic mutations that can be indicators of a whole host of cancers: ovarian, pancreatic, prostate, fallopian tube, sarcoma, thyroid, uterine, gastric, etc. Being knowledgeable about your risk to develop cancer will help you make informed and well thought out decisions about major life decisions (e.g. should I get a mastectomy now, or can it wait five years till I am done having children?).
Support the family members left behind by a victim of cancer. I honestly have not done much research into organizations that support family members, but I know there are ones out there that provide great support, and if you know of any, please list them in the comments and I will add them to the post. One of the saddest things about losing my mom has been that people who knew my her have not been there for me and my sisters. It’s as if they think it’s too hard for us to talk about. Those left behind by cancer need to talk about it. Don’t ignore the family members. Don’t ‘tread lightly.”
Make donations to foundations that support breast cancer research. And I am not talking about Susan G. Komen. Again, if you know of any worthy foundations who actually give money to cancer research, please post in the comments and I will update the post here.
This is not a comprehensive list, and I’m sure I will think of more to add to it over the coming months, but there you go.
*To my school’s credit, they were additionally offering information on how to do BSE’s. The email just hit a nerve, which is why I shared.