Tuesday, October 3, 2023

What It Means When We Say October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

I’ve known October was Breast Cancer Awareness month for much of my adult life, being very familiar with the pink ribbon and some of the fund-raising events.

Even though I had read that breast cancer detection was up in the past few decades, and that women were getting breast cancer more often at a younger age (under 40), I somehow thought I would be immune. I thought that if I did get cancer, it would be a result of my young adult smoking or some genetic pre-disposition from my dad’s side of the family where we’d managed to get lung, colon and pancreatic cancers.


I went to get my annual mammogram a few months late after we were let out of lockdown (15 months instead of 12) and was shocked when the technician said, “you need to schedule a biopsy as soon as you leave this office.” I had breast cancer. 


That’s when I learned that one out of eight American women get breast cancer.


And when I started telling friends and family that I had been diagnosed with breast cancer, I found that I knew a lot of women who had had breast cancer--my next door neighbor, my publicist, my journal-writing teacher, my fellow authors (especially my romance-writing colleagues).  I also met two men who had had breast cancer (carriers of the BRCA gene). I was shocked, because it was everywhere, and I never saw it.


So this October, I want you to really see ME, so you can see how pervasive this illness is, and yet how fortunate we are to live in a time when breast cancer is “the good cancer,” and so many of us cancer survivors can be cured and/or treated.


I guarantee you that someone you know is going through a breast cancer scare, or being treated for breast cancer, or is taking care of someone with breast cancer right now.

There are many ways to translate breast cancer awareness into support.


Of course, you can donate money, especially to the various Hope Kits that sent out by the National Breast Cancer Foundation (https://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/breast-cancer-support/hope-kit/).  They really make a difference when you feel so alone.


Once I was better (after surgery, chemo and radiation), I donated my time to start a journaling through cancer writing workshop at Mt. Sinai, where I had been treated.  It is my way of giving back.


I also published two breast cancer books at Riverdale Avenue Books.  Perennial is a sweet breast cancer romance, which I would have LOVED as a gift when I was undergoing chemo and convinced no one would ever love me again.


The same author, Mary Anne Mohanraj, kept meticulous, detailed, heartfelt notes of her own battle with cancer, chemo, radiation and reconstruction which we published as Tornado. This is an honest guide of what lies ahead for the breast cancer patient. You can get digital copies of both of these books 50% off with the code PINK on the riverdsleavebooks.com website.


If you know someone going through this can, give a little extra love and good vibrations.  It means the world.