After Inflammatory Breast Cancer: What Breast Cancer Awareness Month Means to Me
October is a time for memories.
Last Saturday I volunteered at our local Komen Race for the Cure and saw that I'm not the only one who remembers those who have struggled with breast cancer. Everywhere there were T-shirts, signs and pictures of those who have gone before us -- "In memory of" or "in celebration of."
I remember Thelma Robinson, my mother's sister. She was diagnosed when her grandchildren were small. Her treatment bought her seven years to watch them grow, but when the cancer returned, her death quickly followed.
I remember Katherine Brooks, my friend who did everything she could to stay alive for her three young daughters. She was in bed, weak from chemo, showing me a salad recipe in a magazine. She urged me to take the magazine to try the recipe, but she wanted it back for when she felt better. Katherine never lost hope.
I remember Marian Jones, my colleague at work. I had moved away when I got the word of her death. I couldn't believe that this strong woman who tolerated no attitude from middle school students wasn't able to tell cancer where to go as effectively as she managed kids.
I remember too many friends with inflammatory breast cancer (IBC). I've known some in person; some I've known online. I can rattle off about 20 names of deceased IBC friends without stopping for breath. Debbie McKinney can stand for my IBC memories today because she lived in my city. Debbie was diagnosed while breast feeding and turned her struggles with cancer to help other people as an active volunteer with the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Foundation, and other cancer advocacy groups.
October is a time for facts.
All the news organizations seem to save their breast cancer stories for October. So I'm learning all kinds of new information about breast cancer. Reporters tell us about new drugs and promising treatments. This October we are learning who will get the best benefit from the drug Taxol.
October is a time for hope.
At the Komen Race for the Cure Saturday, a team of high school girls was leading the crowd in cheers about early detection and healthy choices. One of the speakers talked about the optimistic report she received from a cancer researcher recently. Another speaker praised Debbie McKinney's contributions to Komen and other local cancer organizations and expressed our sadness at her absence. A man wearing a pink sash with Harold written across it, told us about his breast cancer journey. The basic research funded by Komen and others will discover the causes and cures for breast cancer, which will also help people with other forms of cancer.
When people know that breast cancer doesn't always start with a lump, when people know men can get breast cancer, when people know that there are some cancer risk factors that they can avoid, there is hope that cancer rates and cancer deaths will go down. Maybe some day breast cancer will go the way of smallpox and polio.