Thursday, October 1, 2009

25 years of Hope

Big or small boobs define us all. They give us our womanly shape, are sexuality our ability to feed our babies. They will also be the cause of death for an estimated 40,170 women in 2009 (1). This October marks the 25th anniversary of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Where were you 25 years ago? Probably in a very different place.

25 years ago was 1984, I was 7 years old. I'm pretty sure the only thing I was worrying about was what I was going to be for Halloween (Strawberry Shortcake) and boobs, well they were many (in my case many many) years away. According to a quote from a seminar NCBAM had that was a time "when few women received mammograms and public discussion of breast cancer was shunned". Now almost as soon as the leaves start turning colors product packaging starts turning pink and everyone is discussing it. How far we've come.

How far we still have to go. Breast cancer is still the leading cause of cancer death in American Women second only to lung cancer. It's estimated that 200 million women are living in America that have been diagnosed with and treated for breast cancer(1). With that many women diagnosed I am sure you know one. I know 4, and I fully expect that number to grow as I age.

When I first had my son I was amazed and awed at what my body could do. The whole process of pregnancy and breast feeding is really something. As my children have grown I have realized that the most important thing my body will do for them is yet to come. It will be there to dust off their knees and kiss a scrape. Be the arms that they run to and the shoulder they cry on. Who would do that for them if I'm not here? It's something I think about often. My grandmother died of breast cancer. She was so busy taking care of her family that she ignored the lump in her breast until it was too was already spread and taking over her body. It was 1984. I have had many nightmares that this is my future. I have been in the sterile white office wearing nothing but a sheet and trying to hold back tears as the technician tries to get a good image of the lump on my breast. It was 2002, I was 25 years old. I was lucky, it wasn't cancer, but not everyone is. 4 years later, a close friend of mine was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer at age 29.

According to Komen for the Cure,

Everyone is potentially at risk, despite age, sex or family history. Although rare, men can develop the deadly disease. Breast cancer is complex and unpredictable. To date, there is no cure.

One of the scariest facts I have seen is this, for many women the only risk factors to breast cancer is being a women, and getting old (2).

So what are we to do? We prevent, because as we have heard prevention is the best medicine. We make sure we are doing our monthly breast self examines. We get mammograms starting at 35 or 40 (depending on history and your doctors recommendations). Most importantly, you listen to your body and if something doesn't seem right you take the time to go to the doctor. When breast cancer is diagnosed at its earliest stages, the five-year survival rate is over 95 percent (1). You would never think of skipping something for your kids health, why skip out on your own?

I also run. I run for health and to try to counter balance genetics and change my future. I also run for a cure. I have run or walked in Race for the Cure for the last 5 years. My girlfriends and I get together and make a weekend of it. When I have the money I give, I give to the American cancer Society and I give to Komen for the cure. I'm a sucker for anything pink, that says they will donate proceeds.

Currently there is no cure, only hope. We, the women of this world, create that hope. Spread that hope by taking care of yourself and reminding all your girlfriends to do the same. It's not taboo anymore, we need to talk about it and we need to help hold each other up. We've come so far in 25 years, maybe in 25 more, we'll have a cure!

(1) Susan G Komen for the Cure Breast Cancer Facts 2009
(2) ACS Breast Cancer Guide

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