I honestly can’t remember a time that I didn’t know about breast cancer. Along with the Holocaust stories my grandmother would share with me, crying in anger for what she had experienced, she would also cry about losing her breast to cancer. She often complained about the pain she was in and how uncomfortable her prosthetics were. I remember seeing her body, one breast completely mangled, missing, concave.
Breast cancer is something that’s inherited in my family. Some families get long legs, blue eyes, dimples. We get breast cancer.
I always knew that breast cancer was going to happen to me but I planned out the way it was going to happen. I’d be in my 60s. I would have been getting yearly mammograms for 20 years at that point so, when we caught it, it would be very early stage. Treatment would be minimal. I would be praised by doctors for being so diligent about my care. They’d wish that there were more patients like me.
I never expected to avoid the cancer. I just never imagined, in a million years, that it would happen to me in my 30s and that it’s effects would be so life altering.
This is one reason why breast cancer awareness month is so hard for me. Because I was so aware of the fact that it would happen to me and even though I was more aware than most thirty something year olds, it didn’t make a difference. I still needed to lose my breast. I still needed chemotherapy, radiation, hormone therapy.
I think we should completely do away with Breast Cancer Awareness Month and replace it with Breast Cancer Advocacy Month. It should be a month where doctors and nurses go into underserved communities to provide free care to all women. It should be a month where congress hears the pleas and needs of my metastatic sisters. It should be a time when the whole breast cancer community comes together; patients, doctors, researchers, etc…to discuss what we need to move forward. It should be a time when awareness looks like real statistics and information for men and women rather than cutesy slogans, pink products and images that sexualize and demean our disease.
Awareness only gets you so far. It helps us to be curious and, hopefully, diligent about our bodies and care. But that’s it. And that’s not enough. I am proof that it’s not enough.