Bonnie Annis is a breast cancer survivor, diagnosed in 2014 with stage 2b invasive ductal carcinoma with metastasis to the lymph nodes. She is an avid photographer, freelance writer/blogger, wife, mother and grandmother.
October is breast cancer awareness month, but each survivor has their own perspective on the matter.
The months of the year help us prepare for the seasons. There's a familiarity and significance to almost every month of the year. In January, we feel the chill of winter, February causes us to focus on the emotion of love, March is the blustery month and on and on it goes until we reach the month of October.
For many, October is all about cooler temperatures, pumpkins and fall leaves, but for the breast cancer survivor, October means so much more.
October, in recent years, has come to be known as the month set aside for breast cancer awareness. Weeks before the month arrives, there's an "in-your-face" campaign of festive pink ribbons. Many have become complacent as pink ribbons pop up everywhere while others hone in on the symbolism and embrace it.
For the survivor of breast cancer, October takes on many different meanings. Some choose to reflect on their cancer journey. Others find October a difficult month — a constant reminder of an unpleasant situation involving a very private health concern. No matter which way a survivor chooses to look at the month, October can certainly stir the emotions.
Each year, as we turn the pages on our calendars, October shifts our focus to the topic of breast cancer. Not only do we hear of walks, races, and other celebratory events, we also are invited to participate in fundraising events.
For those whose lives have been touched by the disease, cancer awareness can also be a constant reminder of loss, struggle and sometimes, pain. Those who've experienced a very difficult time battling cancer might choose to have October removed completely. Perhaps being able to skip October might help with the ability to forget and move forward.
My view of October has changed since being diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma in 2014. I was diagnosed in June, had surgery in July, and by the time October rolled around, I'd completed treatments. That first year was hard but I found myself being swept away by all the pinkness of October. My collection of pink ribbons began to grow, and I felt so grateful to those who took time to acknowledge my health challenges.
The next year, I wasn't as enamored with the pink ribbons. My personal battle had shifted from being mainly a physical one to an emotional one. I found myself on the other side of breast cancer awareness month. I'd grown cold toward pink and was slowly becoming a hater.
My third October found me on the fence wavering between being a proponent for breast cancer awareness and wanting to forget I'd ever had cancer. My views had become jaded as I'd watched many friends succumb to the disease and I'd found myself powerless to help.
This year, my fourth October since diagnosis, I find myself more focused on breast cancer awareness than ever. As I head toward the elusive five-year mark, I pray each day that I'll be able to avoid a recurrence. Instead of balking at the commercialism behind the cancer campaign, I am overjoyed to see such dedication and fortitude.
October isn't only about breast cancer awareness, but it definitely puts it in the spotlight. For survivors, like me, October brings an opportunity and a platform to share our stories.
Not everyone will understand how October affects the breast cancer survivor, but hopefully, it will at least cause each of us to face the reality of the disease and to remember that 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer during the course of her lifetime.
Each person's cancer experience is as distinct as the person it affects, and each person's view of October is based upon their own perspective. We can't skip October neither should we. It's a huge blessing to have an entire month dedicated to breast cancer awareness. Perhaps, we can adjust our perspectives to express gratitude for that and maybe one day, we'll find a cure.