As many of you know, October is breast cancer awareness month. As a breast cancer survivor of seven years, I don’t really have to be reminded. I will never forget the experience of having had breast cancer and how it impacted my life.
Dr. Susan Love’s Army of Women is an organization that is working hard to find the cause of and cure for breast cancer. You can join to help even if you have never had this disease. Log onto www.healthofwomenstudy.org to become part of this groundbreaking effort to gather information that will help make breast cancer a disease of the past.
In the meantime, Army of Women bloggers have been asked to blog this month about “collateral damage—costs of the cure.” I think everyone is aware of the challenging journey that many women (and men) make when they are diagnosed, as they struggle through surgery, chemo, radiation, and other treatments.
Collateral damage means more than losing your hair, feeling nauseous, or facing your own mortality. I have seen several friends in addition to myself suffer the consequences of breast and other cancers, and I am more convinced than ever that we must find a cure soon. One of the saddest things I witnessed was when a friend who had breast cancer was forced to miss her son’s graduation from high school. She had worked so hard for her child’s entire life to experience the joy of that day. But instead, she spent her son’s graduation in the hospital dealing with complications from her treatment.
So many moms have experienced the physical pains and losses that come with breast cancer. But there are other collateral effects: Missing your child’s band concert, not being there to help your kids do homework, feeling too sick to attend their important sporting and musical events. The year that I had breast cancer my middle son was applying to colleges. Though I tried to give the process my full attention it was difficult to concentrate on my son’s bright future when I wasn’t even sure if I would have any future at all.
To put it plainly, there are side effects…and then there are side effects. Feeling too sick to hug your toddler, feeling too tired to take your kids to the park, feeling too scared to laugh and smile at Christmas dinner (I was diagnosed a few weeks before the holiday) are things that doctors don’t tell you about and certainly no pill will fix. Cancer can steal away our health; it can also steal away our peace of mind and our ability to enjoy our lives and our families…if we let it. Cancer can also result in depression, anxiety, and fear. For many women, living with the fear of recurrence is a daily struggle.
Please join the effort to eradicate this disease by going to www.armyofwomen.org and signing on to a study. Remember, it’s not necessary to have or even to have had breast cancer to participate in many of these research initiatives. Sometimes you can help just by answering a few questions on an online questionnaire, or by spreading the word to others. Thank you!