October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and I always try to figure out a way I can raise awareness and pay tribute to the many warriors I have known throughout their battles. Chief among those I have known is my own mother, who lost her own fight with breast cancer October 26, 2004, a mere six days after my first child was born. In many respects, it seems like a lifetime has past since Mom died, and in fact, one has – that of my own daughter, who will be celebrating her tenth birthday at the end of October. However, it’s still a decade later where I have spent many times wishing I could pick up the phone and call my mother to share stories about the grandchildren she so looked forward to having.
Cancer sucks, and it blows my mind how insidious it continues to be. Just this week, a dear friend, also unspeakably young, as my mother was when she was diagnosed, just found out she has cancer. She is facing chemotherapy with the courage and grace that all who face cancer continue to show, and it’s a fight that is all too common. It continues to surprise me that those who are so deeply involved in the research end of the disease still have not found a broad spectrum cure, yet I also understand that pharmaceuticals as a whole are a huge industry that employ thousands. A cure for cancer should not be about how much money businesses will stop making, but deep down, I fear that there is a very real possibility that a cure for cancer is being held up by the businesses that supply the chemotherapy drugs to hospitals. It horrifies me that not much has changed since my own personal introduction to the devastation of cancer although I have been active in trying to raise funds for research to find an end to this disease. I am also not the only one involved in fundraising for the fight against cancer; thousands yearly work towards raising money to press for an end to this terrible disease.
The National Cancer Institute has a list of cancers for every letter of the alphabet, and sadly, there is not just one entry per heading. The American Cancer Society estimates there will be 40,000 deaths from breast cancer this year, and from ovarian cancer, the fifth leading cause of death for North American women, over 14,000 women could die. That’s a total of 54,000 too many and does not count the numbers of women who die from lung cancer or colorectal cancer – two of the other very common cancers among women.
Some of these cancers do not have apparent symptoms, while others do from the outset. Education is definitely a part of the solution; there are increasing numbers of women worldwide who are now aware of how to conduct breast self-exams and are also learning other potential symptoms of cancer. However, instead of continued educational endeavors, why is there not a spearheaded effort by businesses and governments worldwide to ensure an end to cancer? These are two of the agencies or organizations that have the power to put an end to the disease; it is simply a matter of deciding to make it happen.
Opinion by Christina St-Jean