When Breast Cancer Awareness Month hits, most people immediately think of all of the fundraising efforts and celebration of those who are survivors. However, for many of us, we have an entirely different message that we want to share and it comes from the very core of the work and awareness we choose to bring to everyone all year long and this month just happens to broaden the audience for our mission.
My goals have emerged from my own experiences that originated nearly nine years ago when I was diagnosed with breast cancer for a second time. I have a husband who understood my need to write about what I was feeling and told me that if I wrote, he would find a way to share that work. And since MySpace was the biggest platform at the time, you can well imagine the lack of information and sharing that was occurring online at that time especially when it came to a topic such as breast cancer. But, as I wrote, a shift occurred as I started to interact with others who were glad that they “found” me since they, too, were feeling very alone in dealing with their cancer experiences and were grateful to share with someone else who “understood”.
The other major factor that has influenced my direction is the medical team that I had. My primary care physician truly cares about her patients and she listens and works with them to provide the best and most current care available for the individual. This was the driving force behind my desire to advocate for others who were not as fortunate as I was to have a medical practitioner who has always had my best interest at heart and was willing to look at information that I had gathered about my particular needs and care and to initiate the work needed to get me a second opinion or a medical professional that was trained in the procedure that we determined was best for me.
Therefore, my mission has become one of awareness. I want to let everyone know about the work and research that is being done every day of the year at universities and medical labs and at pharmaceutical companies and in private operations across the world. I want people to know that there are websites that are dedicated to those who may be dealing with issues such as the BRCA gene mutations in their family’s history and those who are focused on the issues and treatment for those who are dealing with metastatic breast cancer. I want to alert those who can’t afford their prescription medications that help is available for them, including from the very pharmaceutical company that manufactures the treatment that they have been prescribed. I want everyone to know that they can find the information, the help and the support that need if they just take the time and make the effort to find it either through their own searching or through the work that is being done and shared across social media.
I want patients and those who support them to know that every single day there is something new being shared in the press about treatments, research, clinical trials, etc. that may be of particular interest to them. Patients may want to share this new information with their own medical team members to find out whether it is a treatment that would benefit them. I want them to be aware that if something is happening with their care and/or treatment which is not resonating with them that they have a right to a second or third opinion, if necessary and how they can go about securing that opinion. I want them to know about their latest options with regard to everything from mental health support to the newest techniques in breast reconstruction. But, most of all, I want to alert them that there are many medical professionals at all levels and that they should find those who care about the patient, listens to them and does everything possible to treat the patient and not just the disease.
Therefore, for me, breast cancer awareness means sharing the most current information, the most helpful and supportive websites and organizations and the work that is tirelessly being performed by people everywhere whose motivation is like mine and that is to help breast cancer patients and their families and friends everywhere. It is through service and work that is focused on helping others rather than a strictly financial motivation that will always produce the best outcome for patients everywhere.
While there is an absolute need for businesses to operate at a profit and to support those that they employ, it is also necessary to be aware of how those businesses are truly giving back to their communities and to know that the people who work for those businesses are most likely motivated to do their work because of their own personal connection and ties to those who are or have been a part of their lives that have dealt with breast cancer. Working together and helping each other and putting the patient first will always provide not only the best medical outcome but also the best life possible for everyone.