Breast cancer had always been only a color to me – wherever the color pink was shown on products, pleas for awareness were also being made. It wasn’t until I was in college that it became manifested in a person – my aunt – who also happened to be pregnant at the time of her diagnosis. Hearing about it only confused my already conflicted feelings. What can I do to help? How can I support my aunt, support breast cancer awareness, without being another burden to her?
It should come as no surprise that many people feel discomfort or are unsure of how to react when faced with unpleasant news. A cancer diagnosis is a life-changing moment, and determining the right words to say, at a moment when someone feels vulnerable and exposed, can be difficult. The first thing to remember is to not put unnecessary pressure on your friend or family member. Try not to say “You’re so brave” or “You’re so strong,” which can lead them to think they need to live up to these expectations, even when they don’t feel like it. Instead, respond from your heart. For example, “I’m not sure what to say, but I care about and love you”; “What can I do to help?”; or “I’m so sorry. I will keep you in my thoughts.”
Know that your friend or family member told you about their diagnosis because they love and trust you. Now is not the time to withdraw. Send texts or notes often, and be sure to call to keep up to date on each other’s lives. Many studies report that when a person with a cancer diagnosis has a strong support system, they usually adjust better to the changes in their lives, have a more positive outlook on life, and typically end up with a better quality life. Make sure to visit often, but always call before stopping by, and be understanding if they are not feeling up to it. Also, don’t be afraid to touch or hug your friend – they will appreciate it more than you know.
A cancer diagnosis is often the beginning of a long arduous journey. Your loved one may encounter possible physical and emotional changes that will test their strength and resilience. Always show encouragement, but never provide false optimism; instead, take your cues from the source themselves.
While there are many fundraisers, rallies and events that promote breast cancer awareness, it is still an illness that has yet to be eradicated. About 1 in 8 U.S. women will develop invasive breast cancer in the course of her lifetime, and although death rates have been decreasing since 1989, breast cancer is still the number one cause of death by cancer in U.S. women, excluding lung cancer. The best way to manage your chances is to be prepared; when found early enough, cancer is easier to treat and has better outcomes. Beginning at the age of 18, both men and women should perform a breast self-exam once a month. For instructions on how to do so, visit www.wcmagazines.com. Forty percent of diagnosed breast cancers are the direct result of a self-exam. However, if you feel a lump – don’t panic. Make an appointment with your physician, who can help you determine the next steps, regardless if it’s breast cancer or a harmless lump. When a woman turns 40, she should begin getting a yearly mammogram. Staying vigilant is key to early detection, which can improve your chances of beating breast cancer.
Presently, my aunt proved herself to be a fighter. Her son was born six weeks early, while she immediately underwent chemotherapy, surgery and radiation. Both are healthy today, and she is in remission. My aunt has been an inspiration, and she has shown that breaking down the barriers of discomfort can only bring family and friends closer together. Raising breast cancer awareness begins with making a difference in the lives of those we love. From there, it’s a struggle that can be fought together.
10 More Ways to Support Breast Cancer Awareness
• Get Current: Did you know that in 2016 alone, an estimated 246,660 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S.? Stay up to date on what you can do to help.
• Know about Symptoms & Prevention: Visit the American Cancer Society site for more details. You can also learn about your own personal assessment tool through the National Cancer Institute.
• Encourage Your Friends and Family: Every woman should get screened, so spread the word to the women in your life!
• Eat & Drink Pink: There are “Eat & Drink Pink” places all around town, where you can add a donation to your bill; many of these places offer special dishes, desserts or drinks that help the Breast Cancer Foundation.
• Social Media: Spread awareness through social media. A pink ribbon post goes a long way!
• Create Your Own Fundraiser: Do a bake sale, garage sale, lemonade stand, talent show, etc. Whatever you do, do it with love and make sure guests know that proceeds will go to a breast cancer charity!
• Volunteer: Giving of your time is priceless. There are multiple charities who would love your help. A friendly smile and a spirit filled with compassion can make a huge difference!
• Shop: Some local stores will allow you to round up your dollar to support breast cancer. Others carry specialty items to benefit the cause.
• Pink Ribbons: Increase awareness wherever you go by wearing a pink ribbon to show support.
• Walk or Run: Get in shape while spreading awareness through a local breast cancer walk or run. W