On the Bright Side
October 9, 2021
It's that time of year again, when the leaves are colorful and flying all over, and the fall chill is much more noticeable...and everyone should remember that October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month.
Everyone I know has been affected by some kind of cancer, in one way or another, either directly or indirectly. I'm fortunate to have dodged that bullet for myself (so far), but I have been in the fight with friends and family who have been diagnosed. My mother had breast cancer twice and recovered from both of those bouts, only to lose her life to pancreatic cancer some years later.
I always like to write a reminder column in October about Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is a good time to remember those who have faced that battle – those who have lost it, as well as those who beat it – and to remember to take it seriously and get checked regularly. Both of my mom's breast cancer battles were discovered by mammograms and were caught early enough to save her life. At least three personal friends have had the same experience with mammos in the last couple of years.
"Early detection is so crucial, I consider myself fortunate that I found this in the early stages and the prognosis is so promising," said Joan Lunden, former ABC morning anchor and American journalist and cancer survivor. Her cancer was detected in a mammogram.
But mammograms aren't the only way to detect breast cancer early. Robin Roberts, CBS morning news host and cancer survivor, said, "I can't stress enough how important it is to get screened and checked for all cancers - and to do self breast-exams. I found my lump in a self-exam! Because I was familiar with my body and the lumps, I knew this one felt different. It was in a different place on my breast and it was hard. If I hadn't been doing self-exams, I wouldn't have known that."
Many women, famous and otherwise, are helping the cause and talking about their own personal experiences these days, but women are not the only people affected by breast cancer and who benefit from self-exams. Peter Criss, drummer and vocalist for the rock-band Kiss, was diagnosed after he discovered a lump in his own chest. In a CNN interview Criss said he considered himself "the luckiest man on the planet" due to surviving breast cancer; he often gives speeches to spread awareness of breast cancer among males.
I've had a few questionable mammos myself, and because of my family history and my own other health issues, I get checked regularly and follow up on anything that doesn't look quite right. But family history is not necessarily a factor in whether or not one gets breast cancer. About 60-70% of people with breast cancer have no known pre-existing risk factors. This is why it is important for everyone to have an early detection plan, regardless of family history.
"Someone like me shouldn't be diagnosed with breast cancer," said Sheryl Crow, singer/songwriter and breast cancer survivor. "That's what was going through my mind. I wasn't thinking about a diagnosis. I was just doing what I was supposed to do, which was staying on top of my mammograms. It was a shock."
Christina Applegate, one of the youngest and most open survivors, said on the Oprah Winfrey Show that her diagnosis and experience spurred her "to go out and fight as hard as I can for early detection."
I hope everyone takes this seriously: early detection is a critical factor in survival. Please spread the word about Breast Cancer Awareness. By doing so, you may help save the life of someone you love.
© 2021 Marilda Mel White. Mel White, local photographer and writer and owner of Tehachapi Treasure Trove, has been getting regular check-ups for decades, and has been looking on the bright side for various publications since 1996; she welcomes your comments at email@example.com.