We’re coming up on October, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It’s a heady special month, one in which we all become aware, apparently, that Breast Cancer exists. Well, the few of us who haven’t lost someone to cancer or know someone who survived it.
Obviously cancer is something I care about. And while I am a little peeved that Breast Cancer gets its own month I am glad it does. Over 200,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year (roughly 2,000 men too). Some will not survive, others will after extensive surgery or other invasive means.
I said this before and it bears saying again: suffering from cancer doesn’t make one a member in an exclusive club. We’re not special because some part of our body started to act erratically. It also doesn’t make one cancer “worse” than another. Who cares, frankly, that the outlook for breast cancer is better than, say, NHL. Or pancreatic cancer. Cancer is cancer is cancer. No one cares what kind of cancer it is. There’s always pain, always fear, and always a chance of riding off into the dark unknown. Cancer doesn’t always kill, but it almost always maims.
There aren’t many “walks for colon cancer” and we don’t see brown ribbons (sorry, could not resist) to denote that the purchase of this bag of Tic Tacs supports research into cancerous bowels. But there is Breast Cancer awareness. And we should make it the best awareness ever. Every year.
First, care. Really care. I read a wonderful rant by Bliss Morgan about those “secret” awareness messages on Facebook. Like me she seems to be not very OK with them. But she puts it so much better:
Hey, it’s breast cancer research week! You know what’s really good for research? NOT KEEPING SECRETS FROM HALF THE PEOPLE IN THE WORLD.
I’ll borrow this and will run with it for a second, Bliss. You know what’s not good for research? Silly hearts on your Facebook wall. Here is what’s good: convince your friends, male and female, to get checked. Xeni Jardin went to her first mammogram and found out she had it. Others went because of night sweats or because their friends told them that 35 is a good age to get checked. And, like most, everyone wavered. I wavered. Have a thing stuck up my whatwhat? By some doctor? Have blood taken? What if I have cancer? What then? Next week. Maybe.
And then some discover it when it’s too late.
So here’s what I want you to do for this year’s Awareness Month. Make it “open your mouth and overcome self-created taboos” month. Talk to your girlfriends about mammograms. Talk to the guys about having someone feel up their balls and stick a thing up their whatwhat. And sit on them, harp on them, until they really, really, go.
Speak out about the need to have insurances that do not exclude former cancer patients as “preexisting conditions”. Speak out about affordable health care and about the need to commit money, lots of it, to research. Speak out about the need to keep treatment drug prices in reasonable brackets.
But before you do all that ask your friends to get checked. Sometimes, you know, you don’t have to run into a burning building to save a life. And, awkward as you may feel discussing ball grabbing and boob squishing and things up the whatwhat with your friends … it sure beats the discomfort of running into a burning building as far as becoming a superhero goes.