Did you hear one or more of these news stories in July?
- A world class Iranian female mathematical genius – dead at age 40 from breast cancer.
- An African American woman YouTube sensation who promoted hair care and beauty tips that eschewed the use of unnecessary, toxic, chemicals – dead from brain cancer at age 32.
- An octogenarian national politician/war hero about to start his treatment for an aggressive type of brain tumor.
If cancer patients are fighters so long as they are ‘winning’, are they all losers when the winning stops? How is this language even helpful? A lot of articles have appeared in the press over the last couple of weeks in which patients and their families speak out against this kind of framing and language.
That begs another question: Does stepping away from the language of ‘battle’, ‘war’, ‘fight’ convey a worse alternative? Hopeless? Helpless?
Does this challenge with the language used about people with cancer resonate for you?
Perhaps the problem is the mis-identification of who the members of the ‘army’ are. What if it isn't the people who have cancer - although of course they do have significant challenges to deal with – but all of us? It is unavoidably true that pretty much everyone reading this will be impacted by cancer at some point – you may never be diagnosed with cancer but someone you know will be.
We know you, reader. You have a bias towards action. You have to do something. Here are our top six suggestions of ways you can make an impact to reduce the burden of this disease;
- Be part of the practical and/or moral support team for someone you know with cancer. Be a walking partner. Run an errand. Go with them to a movie or the theater. Take them out into nature. To a sports event. Cook a meal. Make a phone call to shoot the breeze. Be a chemo companion. Bring them flowers.
- Speak up against unnecessary and excessive use of pesticides. Advocate for use of less toxic chemicals at home and at work. Drink water out of glass or metal containers not plastic. Cook in caste iron and microwave in glass or ceramic bowls. Help to educate your family, your community and your co-workers about the steps you can all take to reduce cancer risks.
- Speak up for those who experience health disparities – "persistent, avoidable, and, therefore, unfair, health differences between socially advantaged and socially disadvantage groups.” Support members of those communities who need access to healthy food, safe places to be able to exercise and be active, robust health and wellness policies at the schools in their communities and access to affordable preventative health care services.
- Support organizations providing services to cancer patients. At the time of diagnosis. During treatments. After treatment to rebuild and re-establish wellness and well-being (including management of long term side effects or complications of treatment).
- Support organizations who advocate for evidence based medicine, environmental protections, healthy diets, physical activity and recess in schools.
- Support organizations promoting greater health literacy and breast cancer risk reduction information for all ages and stages of life. Support Zero Breast Cancer.
If this is what joining the 'war' looks like then maybe you can see yourself as a 'combatant.' As a 'platoon' member you can help to 'recruit' others to the 'ranks' as well. By taking up 'arms' you can 'join the battle' and you can contemplate 'winning' those victories.
When did October become breast cancer awareness month? Here at Zero Breast Cancer EVERY month is breast cancer awareness month. The vision? A world with zero (breast) cancer. The reality? There is much still to do.
Gratefully yours, from the trenches,