It's December already, how did that happen? Have you heard so many holiday greetings that you're going green in the face? Happy December! How ironic is that sentiment? The world around you is moving fast in Christmas trees, holiday lights, family gatherings, mountains of food, and holiday activities. But where does that leave you? We know a lot of people, especially this time of year, wouldn't come out and say this. But we will. When was the last time you were able to enjoy those things? When was the last time you went to a family gathering without dread or fear of being exhausted? How many festivals, plays, and fun holiday activities have you already missed because of the fight you're waging constantly? We realize with Christmas and many other holidays coming and going, it might not be a very happy time for you. A lot of people use the end of a new year and the exciting dawning of a new one as a time of hope, excitement, and starting a list of resolutions. But for you, it might be a different story.
It's hard to start a new year with hope when you're just hoping to get through another day. It's hard to have hope because you don't want it to be the last one with your loved ones. It's hard not to think that the end of this year might be the end of time, the end of life, or that you're running out of time. You might be focusing so hard on trying to make everything look and seem normal that you're overcompensating with buying more, doing more, and trying to be more. You're trying to make this time count. We understand that a new year for you doesn't necessarily mean new beginnings. It might mean the end of so many of your beginnings, your fight, your journey. The pink ribbons fade, you're tired of hearing the same news from your doctors and nurses, and you just want life to get back to normal. We want you to know that you're not alone. You might be tired, but you are worthy. You've gotten up time after time when you've fallen. You've kept going for your loved ones, for yourself, and sometimes maybe even out of spite. This year as you start decorating for the holidays - or decide not to celebrate at all - know that your silent thoughts, fears, heartache, and loneliness are not unheard or unfelt.
We respect that what this blog might offer might not be what you need or want to hear. Know that we respect your journey and someone is out there with the same weight on their heart as yours. The holidays are hard, there is no doubt about that. The stress of the holidays causes many people to get sick. Those with breast cancer will be affected by this stress much harder than the rest. Warriors, we know this might be your last holiday. The thought weighs on you that your families might not have you for the next. You could be worrying and thinking of other families who have lost their loved ones before this holiday. You might be worrying about who will take care of the little details and the special things that make this time of year special for your family. You might be thinking that you don't want them to think about a holiday without you, or about losing you in general.
But the holidays are still coming, nothing is stopping that. You want to enjoy them, but how can you bake or cook your favorite holiday meals when you can't eat? How can you enjoy going out and celebrating when this last treatment kicked you down? What about wrapping gifts, hanging ornaments, or playing in the snow when your hands and feet aren't working like they normally do, thanks to your chemo? Try and remember that this is your time now. Be gentle. Accept where you are today and where it will lead you tomorrow. Get rest, don't make hard plans, and know it's ok to skip out on a tradition or two. Talk about what you need and what you don't need. Throw out the "should be's" the "expectations for the holidays" how "you've always done it this way", and focus on your priorities. Pull your loved ones in, and let these other things go. Believe me, Santa will understand. Give yourself permission to celebrate in your own way, to have this day, and to know that you deserve the next.
What about the holidays after treatment? You've been so focused on just getting through and going through the motions that everything seems a little out of focus. What should you do now? Get outside, reflect on how far you've come, don't let the fear of missing out ruin your time. There is nothing wrong with changing how you celebrate. But there is also nothing wrong with trying to do the little things you love this time of year.
Families, let your warrior celebrate. Buy them the things they love. Maybe this year these things will mean a little bit more. If it's from the heart, it will always be a gift worth giving. Cancer may be a scary word, but your loved ones don't want to be feared. They don't want you to be afraid. This might be the last holiday, so why fill it with doubt or sadness? Life has already given them that. So it is your gift to give them to give love and light.
Warrior, I know you are tired. I know you are lonely. I know you feel unheard and unseen. I know you feel weak and sick. I know you feel angry, sad, confused, and lost. But warrior, I know that you have a good map, a good heart, and a good head on your shoulders. I know that this holiday can still mean something to you.
We have been reading some incredible blogs of women with metastatic cancer recently, and one ended with "survive and shine". It hurts to know that so many of these blogs were published weeks, months, and years ago and their writers might not be with their families this year. But this holiday season, I challenge you to survive and shine for you, your loved ones, and those beautiful warriors who are no longer with us. Make it your own, and make sure you shine as brightly as you can.
Breast cancer has never been a diagnosis that attaches itself to a particular age group or generation. Although it is most commonly found in women over the age of 50, there is still a high number of young men and women who are diagnosed every year. One of the scariest things? The tools to help with the diagnosis and to detect at an earlier age are still not up to par, nor do they help with diagnosis as well as one would hope. When it comes to awareness, it needs to begin at a young age and not be a topic or knowledge limited to anyone.
It's common for many women to not worry about the slightest possibility of breast cancer until they reach their 50th birthday, after starting regular mammograms around their 40th birthday. But for many young women, just starting families and very exciting careers, it's a different story. According to the Young Survival Coalition, "breast cancer in young women tends to be diagnosed in its late stages and is more aggressive. It is estimated that 12% of cases of breast cancer will be in women under the age of 40 and approximately 26,393 women will be under 45 years of age. Every year more than 1000 women under the age of 40 die from breast cancer." Some of these young women who are diagnosed are very healthy and come from a family never touched by breast cancer, so it can come as quite a shock to receive this information out of the blue. Which is why we have stressed in past blogs, that as soon as you can start educating yourself and understanding your body as a young woman, the better. Be aware of signs, symptoms, and what to look for. Learn how to give yourself self breast examinations, and never be quite if something seems out of the ordinary. Be proactive in mentioning anything to your doctor, and never let something go unsaid. They are there to help you with any step along the way. Women who do have family members who have been diagnosed need to be even more proactive, starting exams early and having mammograms as early as their mid 30's. It is also recommended to do the newest genetic testing available to test for the BRAC1 or BRAC2 gene mutation. If you test positive for either, it is more likely that breast cancer could be in your future. If so, become proactive as possible and learn to watch your body closely with your eyes and those of a professional.
Sadly, as common as breast cancer can appear in younger women, it still isn't a topic that is spoken about enough. This is why we want to spread more awareness on the topic and provide some eye-opening information. Please take all of this information to heart, and spread the awareness as much as you can. Care for yourself and the women around you. Share, support, and never be quite. We are here to help guide you through any of these steps.
The Facts and Diagnosis
How it Affects Younger Bodies and Lifestyles
We are here to also spread awareness and offer as much support and guidance as you need. Be aware that cancer will never discriminate based on age or sex, and that staying as educated and aware about your body is the best defense that you can have.
Awareness shouldn't and can't be reserved just for October. Let it be a daily thing, something you can practice with others, and find a path that works for you. As we end October, we wanted to add a little continuation to our last blog. You can do so much for those who are fighting their cancer battle, but there is so much that all parties can do to help themselves and the world at large.
We have been proud to celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness for all of October's 31 days. We have proudly been wearing pink, standing up strong with each of you, offering all the comfort and guidance that we could, and talking about how you can offer love and support to those fighting hard against breast cancer. We were very serious when we pressed that as important Breast Cancer Awareness month is, it's important to make this awareness an all year battle. This is a daily fighting for so many, and to conquer the battle, we have to fight and show awareness at every opportunity possible. Designating October to be Breast Cancer Awareness month has opened up the conversation about risk, education, the importance of getting a mammogram, breast health, and screening. Now that the conversation has started and continues to grow stronger every year, let's not lose the momentum!
Find your support group. For those fighting, surround yourself with what and who you need to keep going. Those who keep you inspired, keep you loved, and keep you fighting. If you are a woman who has just hit her 40th birthday, it's time to start getting a mammogram every year and doing regular self-breast examinations once a month. Self-breast examinations should become a practice in your life as soon as you hit puberty, and it needs to be a topic that can be discussed at any age. Find your tribe and support group who can start you off on a healthy and positive path towards your best breast health. Once you start giving yourself breast examinations and begin mammograms, make sure to take anything you find very seriously. Nothing should be ignored. Early detection leads to a very high rate of getting rid of any cancer cells.
If this is a scary path to walk alone, this is a good time to call on or to form your own group. One that can support you and hold you accountable. Find friends going through the same thing, lean on your mom, your grandmothers, aunts, and cousins. They'll be there. It is very important to take these steps as well if you come from a high-risk family. Take the steps to care for yourself because of those in your family who have been diagnosed, and with the possibility that you could be too. Those from high-risk families should start their screenings at 30 and return once a year.
You can also go beyond finding a support group. Find a doctor you trust and who allows you to make your breast health important to you. All of us at The Breast Place are here for you and your journey. Once you have started, don't stop. Inspire others, nurture those around you, and teach as many as you can. No matter your age, keep a support group and offer support to others if you can. The term bosom buddies has never applied better.
Head to Toe
Keeping your whole body healthy is just as important to your body as it is to your breast health. Regular exercise, a healthy sleep schedule, a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, and practicing limited alcohol consumption can seriously lower the risk of breast cancer. Practicing these things and setting an example for others, can be inspiring to those around you and in your own journeys.
Be a storyteller. Too many women have fought the battle against breast cancer, and every day we are getting closer to changing those numbers for the better. But your victories, hardships, setbacks, and triumphs need to be heard. You can listen to your doctors, teachers, the news, and any book out there. But the stories told by your peers and others who have been on the battlegrounds, are what will really stick with you. If you're not ready to or don't want to share your story, that's okay. But know that someone out there needs and wants to hear your story, and someone out there will always listen.
Be a fierce listener. If your loved one is going through this battle, don't fill a conversation with your experiences or opinions. Just give them your love and what they need to say your full attention. In reverse, if you need someone to talk to, surround yourself with those who will listen to you and respect what you have to say. This is an important part of your healing process, and you deserve it as much as anyone.
No matter what your journey is, you have so much to share. Once you win your battle, be there for those who need it. If you are fighting, find sturdy ground to lead to victory. We are here to always promote, fight, and support awareness and we will help you do so in any way we can.