On the Bright Side
October 15, 2022
I've always loved the month of October for many reasons – the little chill in the air, then the unexpected warm day; the leaves turning colors; the every-now-and-then brisk breeze that turns into a surprise snowfall, baseball playoffs and football season, hayrides and bonfires.
And while I do enjoy those things immensely, I also really like all the horror movies that inundate the big and little screens this time of year, and of course the spooky decorations and Halloween type celebrations that happen right down the street. Dark and scary times, fright nights, haunted houses, a good adrenaline rush to get the heart going and the glands sweating.
October is also the month before national and local elections, which can certainly add to the dark and scary times. Or it can make the month a bit – or a lot – irritating, what with all the political ads on TV and social media and print.
But perhaps most importantly, October is also 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 beat it both times, thanks to her having regular mammograms. I've had friends, too, who have fought breast cancer and won, thanks to early detection with mammograms. Finding it early is one of the best ways to combat most cancers, and breast cancer is no exception.
The argument over how often women should get mammograms – and at what age – seems to go on and on, but the American Cancer Society now recommends screenings should begin at age 45 (and they also note that patients can also choose to start at age 40). Some agencies recommend mammograms every two years, some, every year. You and your doctor can decide what is best for you at your age.
But as far as I'm concerned, I can't state this strongly enough: I believe that through the years mammograms have absolutely saved the lives of my mother, five dear friends, and at least six other acquaintances.
In the cases of my mother and friends, routine mammograms caught the lumps that proved to be cancerous before they could be felt by a physical exam. One friend was 44 when the mammogram set her on a course that saved her life (and she is still alive today at age 75). My mother was in a category of older post-menopausal women; she went on to be an 18-year survivor of breast cancer (pancreatic cancer eventually took her). No one can tell me that mammograms are "unnecessary" for younger women or "have no value" for older women.
I do know from personal experience how uncomfortable mammograms are, but getting one might just save your life, so why wouldn't you get one as often as you and your doctor decide is right for you? There are living, breathing examples all around you of women who have had mammos and, if necessary, faced their fight ... and won.
Many women are also alive today who found a lump by doing their own self-exams and didn't ignore it. I've known women whose tumor was discovered by a spouse or partner. Either way, a hands-on self-exam can be a simple life-saving technique and it can be learned by anyone; it only takes a few minutes of concentrated effort ... and it might save a life.
So, it's October: I hope you enjoy the cooler weather, the beginnings of fall and all that implies, and the Halloween holiday and all that implies. And don't forget that October is also National Breast Cancer Awareness Month – I hope everyone takes it seriously amid all the rest of it.
If you are a woman, check your breasts and get a mammogram. If you are a man, do a self- examination. If you are a man who loves a woman with breasts, tell her what I said. Early detection is a critical factor in survival.
Please spread the word about Breast Cancer Awareness month. By doing so, you may help save the life of someone you love, and that someone may live on to enjoy all the other things that October has to offer.
© 2022 Mel Makaw. Mel, local writer/photographer, has been looking on the bright side for various publications since 1996. She welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.