October is Breast Cancer awareness month. There are all sorts of days and weeks and months designated to promoting awareness of worthy causes, but breast cancer is especially important to me since my mother is a survivor. She was diagnosed the summer before my senior year of high school, which would be a little over four years ago. We don’t have a history of cancer in the family so getting genetic testing for cancer was never something we had considered but, all of a sudden, it found its way into our lives in a big way. My mom was very lucky in that she caught the cancer early because of her persistent self examination. She felt a lump, but the doctors didn’t believe her – she nagged them and had more than one mammogram before they realized she did, in fact, have breast cancer. If she hadn’t been checking herself and been so diligent, I’m afraid to think what would have happened to her.
I have to admit, at the time I wasn’t really too worried. It was probably a combination of me being young and naive, and knowing that she had caught it early enough that her prognosis was good. My general mantra for dealing with bad things in life is don’t worry about what may happen, just do your best to avoid it and fret when it actually does happen. To me, we just had to be level headed, get treatment, and hope for the best. If her status worsened, then I could start freaking out. Not only do I have an oddly unemotional approach to life, but my mom was a fighter. She tried not to let it show how sick the chemotherapy made her, or how sad she was about losing her hair. Instead she would buy trendy hats or talk about how maybe she’d be more stylish by keeping her hair short after her treatment.
She even said the cancer didn’t upset her – the thing she feared the most is that she wouldn’t be able to watch my senior golf season because she would be too weak (I was the captain of my team and one of the best players in the region). My mom scheduled her chemo and radiation around my golf schedule, so she would be sick on my practices and well enough to walk with my Dad and follow me during my matches and tournaments.
She would brag to the nurses how her daughter was going to go study genetics and maybe solve all of these problems. While I’m not in cancer research and there’s not going to be some magical “cure” that works for every type of cancer, she still recognizes the roll that science plays in saving lives. I’ve said before that my mom is sort of a deist, but I don’t remember a single time her asking for people to pray for her, or referencing religion in any way. What I do remember is discussing treatments, what certain chemicals do, how radiation actually works… How I was learning about cancer in human genetics, and she would ask me how exactly cancer starts, how likely you are to get it, if her cancer means I’ll get breast cancer, if certain genetic tests were worth while… We talked about science.
Science saves lives, and it can only get better at saving lives if they have money and support. Visit the National Breast Cancer Foundation for information or to donate. Susan G. Komen for the Cure has a good review on breast self exams, for those of you with boobies (or with girlfriends whose boobies you like to prod). For those of you in the twitterverse, you can participate in #boobiewednesday to show your support for breast cancer research by tweeting about it and changing your avatar to a photo of your chest (yet more incentive to follow me on twitter*)!
I know there are some feminists who hate boob campaigns, like selling shirts that say “I Love Boobies”, because they say it reduces woman to their breasts. To an extent, I understand. Breast cancer research isn’t about saving boobs, it’s about saving women. If a woman has lost her breasts, that doesn’t make her any less human. But I don’t think these movements mean any harm. They’re just exploiting people’s infantile humor (omg boobies lol) in order to raise money for a good cause. It would be lovely if people would just donate money out of the goodness of their heart, but they don’t…so the way I see it, let’s milk boobie humor (haha, get it?) for all it’s worth. In the end, it’s saving lives.
*No, you don’t get a bigger version of that pic. You’ll have to live with 48 pixels.