October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The color pink is everywhere, and millions of survivors and supporters will participate in month-long fundraising activities that are taking place across the country. Yesterday, I walked four miles in Central Park in support of several dear friends who are breast cancer survivors; my daughters' school had a "jeans day" to raise money; the Avon "Walk for Breast Cancer" annual 39 mile trek goes right past my apartment.
It all seems to be working because there are four times more cancer survivors now than there were in the 1970s, which is wonderful and hopeful news.
However, according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, despite all the pink ribbons and billions spent on breast-cancer research, there is surprisingly little information on issues beyond prevention and treatment of breast cancer. How a woman feels -- emotionally and physically -- during treatment and after, usually takes a back seat. That seems to be changing, though.
A new study from the Cancer Support Community (CSC) surveyed over 1,000 breast cancer survivors and the findings show that many "experience significant social and emotional issues not adequately addressed by the current standard of care." According to the report, which will be released this week:
Nearly 90% of respondents said they had at least one physical, psychological or social problem that was moderate to severe. Mentioned most frequently were fatigue, sexual dysfunction and sleep issues. What's more, 24% of those surveyed (almost all women, with an average age of 55 and averaging 5.6 years since diagnosis) reported being depressed--about twice the national rate.
As doctors concentrate on treating the cancer as effectively as possible the patient's quality of life and emotional well-being are not always the priorities. But as more Americans survive cancer, and live longer, organizations -- and individuals -- are grappling with how to help them transition out of the "patient" stage and into a new life as a survivor who feels good, looks good, and has hope for her future.
For sure, surviving cancer and doing everything medically possible to keep it from coming back is the main goal. But so often women re-enter the world feeling sick from treatments, anxious from all the uncertainties, unattractive from hair loss, and unsexy because of everything. Helping women feel pretty -- especially cancer survivors -- is a powerful and meaningful accomplishment.
Laura Geller, the makeup artist and entrepreneur, who's line of makeup is one of the best selling cosmetic brands on QVC (where she appears on-air over 35 times a year in the U.S. and has expanded her empire to include many markets in Europe and the U.K as well) has completely embraced the concept of "the power of pretty, the power of hope."
A few years ago while she was in her namesake New York City studio, a customer was being helped by one of Laura's sales associates. Laura overheard the woman lamenting about the cancer treatments she was going through, which caused her hair to fall out -- not uncommon. It wasn't the hair on her head that created the angst, though. It was her eyebrows. Nothing she had tried looked natural, or stayed on, and the whole experience was just adding to her anxiety and depression. She felt unattractive and nothing was helping.
"I interrupted the conversation," Laura told me recently, "and asked her to tell me more."
By the time the talk was over and the woman left the studio, Laura had started thinking through the details of what would eventually be the "Brow Marker," which has become her best-selling go-to product for all women, including those who are going through cancer treatment.
Since then, Laura has been determined to help women feel good about themselves, whatever they are going through in their lives, and to let them know that "it's okay to want to feel pretty." When I talked with her recently. she said:
Wearing makeup makes you feel empowered and allows others to know you care about yourself. For many women, especially those who are cancer survivors, looking good on the outside can dramatically change how you feel on the inside.
An advocate for giving back, Laura has affiliated the Laura Geller brand with several charitable organizations. In an effort to build awareness for lung cancer, Laura partnered with Joan's Legacy: The Joan Scarangello Foundation to Conquer Lung Cancer. For every Brow Marker sold, one dollar is donated to the organization to raise funds for lung cancer research. Incredibly, even though lung cancer is the #1 cancer killer of women, Laura Geller Makeup was the first international cosmetic company to join the fight against lung cancer.
As of October 2009, Laura Geller Makeup has been donating one dollar from the sale of each i-Care Eyeliner Duo to support the Cosmetic Executive Women's Foundation (CEW) Cancer and Careers organization. Cancer and Careers is dedicated to changing the face of cancer in the workplace by providing resources and support for employees with cancer and their employers, healthcare providers, coworkers and caregivers.
For her philanthropic approach to beauty, and her belief in the "power of pretty" Laura was recently honored at the annual City of Hope "Spirit of Life" luncheon in New York City. City of Hope is dedicated to the prevention and cure of cancer and other diseases, and is a leader in helping women deal with the myriad experiences of being a cancer survivor. A Los Angeles-based center, they host, in partnership with the American Cancer Society, the hugely successful "Look Good . . . Feel Better" program which advises cancer patients on hair, makeup, nutrition, and fitness geared to making them feel good about themselves.
Accepting her award, Laura told the overflow crowd,
As a woman, mother and entrepreneur who spends a great deal of her day thinking about how to bring beauty into women's lives, it's a part of my DNA to support them with ALL the challenges they face.
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For more information about living your best life after 50, visit www.bestofeverythingafter50.com. Staying connected is a powerful tool. "Friend" me on Facebook and "Tweet" me on Twitter (BGrufferman).
2011 New York City Marathon Weekly Training Countdown (3 weeks to go!)
I'm running in the NYC Marathon in November to celebrate my 55th birthday and raise money for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.
Here's an update on my training schedule for this week:
Monday:5 miles using a run/walk ratio of 3 minutes/30 seconds
Wednesday: 6 miles using a run/walk ratio of 3 minutes/30 seconds
Friday: 8 miles with using a run/walk ratio of 2 minutes/30 seconds (last week my last "long run" was 29 miles. I'm glad that's over.)
Follow Barbara Hannah Grufferman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/BGrufferman