My friend Vivian was 34 years old when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer. After having a radical mastectomy performed on her right breast and undergoing weeks of chemotherapy and radiation, she was pronounced cancer free. Then, seven years later, she got grim news. The cancer had returned in her lungs. She was very ill and traditional chemo and radiation would not work. She was given the chance to undergo a stem-cell replacement treatment, a procedure she would have a 50/50 chance of surviving. With no other options, she chose to do the treatment. Fortunately, she not only survived the treatment but beat the cancer. That was 10 years ago and she is healthy and active today.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. It is a time to remember those who have died with this disease and to celebrate those who are survivors. Many of us have been impacted by this disease, either personally or with someone we love. Some of us are currently dealing with mothers or sisters or aunts who are undergoing treatment. It is an insidious disease.
Every 2 minutes, someone is diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S. Every 13 minutes, someone in the U.S. dies from breast cancer. This year 1.1 million people may be diagnosed with this disease worldwide.
While those numbers are grim there are encouraging numbers as well. For example, the five year survival rate of all people diagnosed with breast cancer is 89% . This year the Susan G. Komen foundation donated $100 million in grants to researchers worldwide who are actively seeking a cure. Progress has been made in treatment. If my friend, Vivian, had been diagnosed with that form of breast cancer even a couple years earlier, the stem cell replacement treatment would not have been available. Ten years later, more has been done in the chemotherapy and radiation treatments, as well as early detection.
Still there is work to be done. I encourage you this month to be passionately pink in efforts to help raise awareness of breast cancer. Check out www.komen.org for more information on ways you can be a part of the race to the cure, also go to www.passionatelypink.org to donate $5 one day in October, and be sure to wear pink.
If you are a woman, educate yourself on breast self-examinations, risk factors, and mammograms. If you are a man or woman, spend some time this month with someone who is dealing with this disease on some level, ask the women in your life if they've had a mammogram in the past year (recommended yearly for women over 40, or earlier with a family history of breast cancer), offer to take a woman to her mammogram appointment.
Together, we can make a difference! Together we can work for a day when this cancer has been eradicated. Until then we can be passionately pink, fierce in our activism and vigilant in our own healthcare.