As Breast Cancer Awareness Month kicks into full gear there are a plethora of pink ribbons, Facebook "share this post..." requests, 5K runs and many other ways one can show solidarity to the cause.
While awareness is good and these actions well-intentioned, there are three other perspectives to the equation that we should not forget. One is that awareness is great but meaningless if it does not spur women into a routine of proactive management of their breast health. Second, when you do discover something has gone wrong all the pink ribbons in the world cannot prepare you for the life transition you are about to make. There is just no way you start at point A and arrive at point B the same person you were before it happens to you, no matter how successful or not the outcome of diagnosis, treatment and healing. Third, what can go wrong with our breasts is not always cancer-related. There are other diseases that while benign can cause major damage and change your life. So regular check-ups, self-exams and maintenance aren't just about the big C; they're also about knowing your body and being aware if something is going wrong sooner than later so something can be done.
This happened to me. After a difficult year dealing with my sister's rapidly advancing melanoma, her passing away last November, and the complexities of dealing with her estate, I thought life was finally taking a turn for the better. That is until I took a shower. That's when I found a rather large lump in my left breast. Given I come from a family with three breast cancer survivors (including the sister who passed away from melanoma) and other cancers, I have been faithful with monthly self-exams, annual mammograms, and random checks since my early 30s. I knew this had not been there two weeks earlier; an important piece of information to take with me to the doctor who I went to see immediately.
I lived privately with the diagnosis of breast cancer for three weeks until the biopsy came back negative and instead indicated that I had a benign but rare breast disease. Simply put a long summer of tests, a recurrence and intervention culminated in the loss of a majority of breast tissue and reconstructive surgery. The healing, both physically and mentally, has been slow but things are moving in the right direction and there have been no more recurrences. Things are looking up.
Throughout my ordeal, I was in the final editing and production phases of Press Pause Moments. Four of the essays in the book deal directly with the subject of breast cancer and breast wellness. When I selected essays for the anthology I never realized how much these particular essays and writers would inspire me personally.
- In Sisterhood of Breast Cancer Survivors, Sandra Aylward shares her journey dealing with breast cancer as she realizes the many women around her who are also survivors and, in a silent motion, acknowledge her and show her their support.
- Mary Myers talks about dealine with mastectomy and how she factored in "both Western medical knowledge which deals with the physical and my own spiritual wisdom which gives me that energetic connection to Spirit."
- Irene Sherlock describes the experience of a mammogram that might "show something" and how the experience parlays into thoughtful introspection about her relationship with her mother.
- Diana M. Raab offers her reflections about dealing with breast cancer and the life transition she experienced, personal insights captured through her journal writing.
So Breast Cancer Awareness Month is about more than posting pink ribbons and sharing stories about people we know who've had breast cancer. It's about making a decision to get to know our bodies, how they change and transform as we age, and what to do when we face a problem. It's about being diligent in getting information and making the commitment to change old habits, hard as it might be, if it means better health and wellness. It's about knowing what to do if you find something, not just hoping it will go away or ignoring the fact that it's there.
If Breast Cancer Awareness Month can get each person who reads this post to make one change or commit to one action that will help them maintain the health of their breasts, then solidarity for the cause will be stronger than ever and will be making an even bigger difference.
I wrote today's post as part of the WOW-Women on Writing Blanket Tour for Healing with Words: A Writer's Cancer Journey by Diana M. Raab, MFA, RN (www.dianaraab.com). The book includes Diana's experiences, reflections, poetry and journal entries, in addition to writing prompts for readers to their own personal stories. A survivor of both breast cancer and
multiple myeloma, Raab views journaling to be like a daily vitamin--in that it heals, detoxifies and is essential for optimal health.
Diana, the author of eight books, spent 25 years as a medical and self-help writer before turning to poetry and memoir. She teaches creative journaling and memoir in UCLA Extension Writers' Program. If you comment on today's post you'll be entered to win a copy of Healing with Words: A Writer's Cancer Journey. To read Diana's post about breast cancer and a list of other blogs participating in Diana's Blanket Tour visit
Diana, the author of eight books, spent 25 years as a medical and self-help writer before turning to poetry and memoir. She teaches creative journaling and memoir in UCLA Extension Writers' Program.
If you comment on today's post you'll be entered to win a copy of Healing with Words: A Writer's Cancer Journey. To read Diana's post about breast cancer and a list of other blogs participating in Diana's Blanket Tour visit