Breast Cancer is the reason I read romance. Yes, you read right. Sure, I had always read books with romantic elements but never a Harlequin or a mass market dyed-in-the-wool romance. But seven years ago, my mother, a five year survivor, suffered a reoccurrence and died ten days after she was diagnosed. I turned to my love of reading for solace but unfortunately read two books with unhappy endings in quick succession. I can show you the dents in my wall from where I threw those books at critical moments in the stories. I didn’t trust myself to read for pleasure anymore. Life had handed me enough bad endings at the time. But I missed reading. I heard romance authors were required to give the reader a Happily-Ever-After. I picked up a few, found them fantastic, and a romance fan was born.
My mother and my mother-in-law were the reasons I worked for a while at Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a non-profit dedicated to breast cancer education, research, and helping women who can not afford preventative measures and treatments get the care they need. While my mother’s situation was a worst case scenario, my mother-in-law’s experience with breast cancer was at the other end of the spectrum. She is a thirty year breast cancer survivor. Thirty years! She was diagnosed when diagnosis was harder and treatment more severe but has thrived. Today, mammograms, annual visits to doctors and self-exams detect breast cancer in many women at an earlier stage. But there are many women who don’t know where to go for education or who cannot afford medical treatment. I worked for Komen because I wanted to do my part to make sure women (and men, yes, men get breast cancer too) had the hope, the help, and support they needed.
Julie's daughter - because as Julie says,
"breast cancer education and fundraising
are for all generations"
In this day and age, it is hard to miss all the October breast cancer awareness messaging appearing in the news, magazines, blogs and social media. But breast cancer is a year round disease. A woman may remember to schedule her mammogram with the October prompting but what if she finds out she has to have a biopsy or a close friend is diagnosed in January? What if a person, like me, just wants to do something to make sure the disease is eradicated from the face of the planet or help women who are too poor to get the help they need when diagnosed? Here are just a few suggestions of places to go for information and assistance:
1) Check out the Susan G. Komen for the Cure website, http://ww5.komen.org , a one-stop shop directing you to help based on your needs. Buttons at the top of the website lead you to the resources for persons diagnosed, if you know someone who has been diagnosed, if you want to know about early detection or if you want to advocate for the cause. You can find out information about programs in your area receiving grants to provide mammograms for women who can’t afford them or university medical centers receiving money for research.
2) If you like your information straight up or are a medical science geek, The Cancer Institute through the National Institutes of Health gives basic information about the disease, statistics, and news about medical trials and research. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/breast
3) During October, be sure to watch for stories on the local news about organizations in your area. These inspirational stories will be appearing throughout the month in your newspaper or on the television or radio. People often hear about a program or person who may be able to give them support through the media.
4) Better yet, become the story. Hold your own fund-raiser in conjunction with a local agency. Participate in a fund-and-awareness-raiser held by others. Celebrate survivors with their own day of pampering or celebrate your own survivorship.
5) One important note: There are a lot of stores, organizations and individuals that “go pink” in October. Pink shirts, pink mixers, pink shoes and much more, all with the promise a portion of your purchase or your donation goes to support breast cancer research or programs for breast cancer patients. Jars for donations may appear, a certain percentage of a service may supposedly go to a breast cancer organization, or someone may appear at your door. I have learned to ask questions and do my research to make sure my money is well spent and supporting the cause. Check www.charitynavigator.org for larger organizations. Call local offices directly if you want to make sure a fundraising organization is working in conjunction with a breast cancer service provider.
I am thankful to Donna for asking me to contribute this month. It is one small way I can give back to the world of romance for helping me through a rough time and honor those authors who are survivors.