October, as many people seem to be aware nowadays, is the official month allotted to Breast Cancer Awareness.
For the past nine years, I have watched as my mum, other loved ones and close friends have been diagnosed with this frightful disease, have soldiered on through the treatment processes and, in some cases, have either survived or succumb to it…
Still, it’s not all doom and gloom… Breast cancer ‘fighters’ are stronger and more resilient than many people know.
I often used to wonder, once I had recovered from the fear (at least, the greatest fear after my mum’s diagnosis in August 2006), denial and shock of my mother’s cancer plight, whether it does not strike the strongest, most courageous women (and men)… because I, for one, do not think I could have endured the weeks of treatment and the uncertainty surrounding the numerous and frightful tests she has been put through over the years and yet still have been brave and strong enough to be as selfless, loving and concerned about those around me as she has been and continues to be.
My mother, much like I myself, does not think of herself as a particularly ‘positive’ person but she’s not as pessimistic as she may think either. Because, through her, I have found reassurance and hope in the darkest of times.
My faith in God, which is both personal and exceedingly dear to me, was utterly shaken when she first fell ill… or, as I should say, turned into a walking skeleton before the tumour was removed from her breast and the radiation treatment and cancer drugs eventually started to help her look, well, ‘normal’ again.
But, in time, I realised that this wasn’t a punishment, the result of something anyone had done, nor was it the harshest example of God’s wrath… it was just something that happened.
They always say “sh** happens” – yeah, it does… and cancer does too.
I suppose scientists and medical practitioners might claim it’s caused by this or that – but, until they can find a cure (which I personally don’t know if they ever will do), then I’m not really interested… sorry, guys.
I have quite a high risk of someday getting breast cancer as both my mother and my maternal aunt, her older sister, have been struck with it – but I don’t plan on living my life in fear…
Okay, well, that’s not strictly true. I live a large percentage of my life in fear for my mother but I’ve accepted that now. It’s one of the small things I can do for her.
Anyway, back to my original thought… You see, a year or two after my mother’s diagnosis, I believed that I needed to start eating healthier and getting more exercise but eventually, I realised I couldn’t obsess over it any more… Milk products can supposedly cause cancer but I am not going to give up drinking milk entirely just because of a largely unproven theory.
Our family switched to soy milk for a year and hell, it was horrid… I don’t drink or eat anything in excess but I still like to maintain a good, balanced diet and dairy products – in moderate measures – form part of that.
I do believe that a healthy lifestyle and reasonable amount of exercise (obesity is also linked to higher risks of all types of cancer, as well as so many other terrible diseases) are vital and they certainly do go a long way to helping us fight off not just cancer but so many other ills as well.
So yes, I will be cautious and I will certainly do self breast examinations now and go for mammogram screenings as soon as I am ‘old’ enough (I’ve been advised to start in my early- to mid-thirties, though I don’t understand why a person can’t be tested before that… breast cancer does, after all, hit people of all ages, even teenagers or those in their early 20s) and I will be aware of it… and as either a woman or a man, you should too.
Honestly though, that’s not such a break from tradition for me… I have always been aware of it. I live every single day of my life aware of it… I am not just suddenly conscious of breast cancer and its statistics, sufferers and victims during this month or that… no, I am aware of it all year round – and not just in Ocrober, thank you very much!
So to all the people out there who like to make cancer jokes (believe it or not… cancer’s actually not funny and I don’t appreciate people making light of a very sober matter, those of us who have suffered because of it certainly do not make them so what gives you the right to, hmm?) half the time and then suddenly, when it hits October, they are suddenly ‘concerned’ in creating awareness and busy themselves in worrying about the ‘cancer statistics’.
My mother is not a cancer statistic… she’s a person. She’s a wife, mother, sister, daughter and friend – but she is not a damn statistic!
She is just someone who was unfortunate to have the ‘Big C’ hit her in a very real and, at times, terrifying way – but what has happened to her, could just as easily happen to your mother… or even your father.
Yes, that’s right… Breast cancer hits men too. Cancer, unlike humans, has no issues with race, age or sex. It’s not picky… even though I think it tends to single out the finest people among us – but perhaps I’m just sentimentally biased.
So yes, October is Breast Cancer Awareness and November is Movember (the idea of growing a moustache during November was originally started to raise awareness for male testicular cancer but yet again, it’s been distorted by most humans and has become more of an ‘it’ thing to do than something that is done as an earnest offer of support or to sincerely raise awareness for the different types of cancer) but, to some of us, they’re just ‘normal’ months…
Cancer awareness is every day, week and month for me personally but I do appreciate the genuine support and efforts some people make during October and indeed November, as well as any other day or month.
So, by all means, please be aware of breast cancer (and every other type of cancer too, while you’re at it) and offer your support, hell, even go out and proudly don the breast cancer pink ribbon during October, but please, just remember that some of us are aware of cancer all the time… not just on certain days or certain months of the year.
(All images were sourced from the Breast Cancer Awareness page on Facebook)