Martha lives in Illinois and was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in January 2015. She has a husband and three children, ranging in age from 12 to 18, a dog and a lizard.
How to turn breast cancer awareness into actions that can improve your life and those of people you love.
My mom had cancer more than a decade before mine was diagnosed. So did friends, acquaintances, and other relatives. In the US, one in eight women is told she has breast cancer, so even though each new diagnosis was a shock of bad news, I couldn’t call it a surprise.
Before my own diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer, it was pretty easy to look at the pink cascade of products each October and buy some little thing to support the cause. Of course, most people now know better than to think that pink always means the money is going to be spent responsibly. I’ve written about how October Pink generates a lot of cash for good organizations but also for organizations and companies that are unscrupulous. You can read my tips on how to find the pink causes that actually help here.
But for me, Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM) has been renamed Breast Cancer Action Month. Same great initials, much-improved cause. We are mostly aware of breast cancer but what are we going to do about it? In 2020, in the midst of a global pandemic, action matters more than ever if we want to keep moving forward.
True, self-care is an every-month kind of thing but, in October, let self-care action mean that you check in with your primary care physician and get caught up with breast health necessities. Schedule a mammogram, read about less common breast cancer signs (breast warmth, for instance), and while you’re at it, get caught up on health care for all the other parts of your body.
If you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, use October to learn about how care may be changing for you. Ask about risk of recurrence and risk reduction, find out about your specific risk of recurrence and what to do if you experience a symptom. Knowledge is power.
Take an hour a week to read a new article about what you’re most curious about in cancer treatment and care or go to the website of your favorite breast cancer organization and see what webinars are upcoming or are already there for on-demand viewing. What we know about breast cancer is changing--sometimes rapidly--and being aware of those changes could improve your own healthcare.
The great thing about being an advocate is that it encompasses so much. Speak up for yourself at an appointment where you might otherwise be silent, write a letter to your state representative asking that data be collected on recurrences, offer to tell your story or remind your friends to not skip their own self-care actions. Speaking up can help you even when you think no one will listen.
This month of pink is a big deal for groups that do great things, and money, as we know, is in short supply for many of them. Consider giving directly to an organization that has helped you or that you feel will truly benefit others.
Say the word metastatic. If it feels uncomfortable to challenge the power of pink--all those boobie bingo games and pink hearts--know that those of us living with metastatic breast cancer are grateful for your strength in standing beside us as we try to make it clear that we want more and we deserve more. Remember that everyone benefits from the discovery of drugs our metastatic bodies prove effective.