What do you feel when you read, “1 in 8 women will get breast cancer in her lifetime?” I feel fear and outrage! We need to move beyond breast cancer awareness.
This year alone, hundreds of thousands of our mothers, daughters, sisters, nieces, grandmothers, wives, and girlfriends will be hearing the words, “You have breast cancer.” Men get breast cancer, too, so that means some of our fathers, sons, brothers, nephews, grandfathers, husbands, and boyfriends will be hearing the same message.
You may not realize this; there is no cure for cancer. Treating cancer means pumping poisons through your veins, cutting out or off parts of your body, and zapping yourself with radiation, in an attempt to force your cancer to go into remission. But, it may come back, meaning it was always there just waiting for a diagnostic procedure to identify it…again.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month
This October, as a newly minted breast cancer survivor, I have mixed feelings about Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
On the one hand, being aware that there is a problem is the first step in solving it. Making people aware that breast cancer is harming and killing hundreds of thousands of women and men seems like a good thing.
On the other hand, while we are participating in walk-a-thons, shopping for pink coffee mugs, and donating money to breast cancer charities, people with cancer are struggling through horrendous treatment regimes and sometimes dying.
Googling “breast cancer awareness month” gave me results from a wide variety of websites including the National Breast Cancer Foundation, American Cancer Society, Susan G. Komen®, Breastcancer.org, Centers for Disease Control, and the White House.
Interspersed with ads for pink everything is solicitations for donations. On one website, you can shop by cancer type (that is just creepy). Another site is giving away Free Breast Health Guides, but only if you enter your name and email address (so they put your contact information in their database and probably sell it). Then there is my favorite, “Support Breast Cancer Awareness Month in Style with 10 Fashion Finds.”
Breast Cancer Complacency
“Despite our decades-old war on cancer, women today are much more likely to develop breast cancer than any previous generation.” —Silent Spring Institute
Before my own breast cancer diagnosis in 2015, I participated in Breast Cancer Awareness Month by pinning on a pink ribbon, buying a pink Raiders baseball cap, and writing October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I cringe now when I read it. Below are the first two sentences.
“What do the White House and the National Football League have in common? They are both looking pink in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.”
How could I have been so complacent? Going through cancer treatment is a horrific experience and some people suffer through it and then die anyways.
Today, I am a different woman than the one who wrote that post. I am feeling both grateful to be alive and outraged at our society. We seem to accept that some people will get cancer and we willingly pour billions of dollars into the cancer industry in hopes that they will receive treatment and not die.
Imagine if we focused on preventing the people we love and ourselves from getting cancer in the first place.
In the next post, we will be exploring how our environment affects our ability to prevent people from getting cancer.