breast cancer awareness

The Truth About Breast Cancer

Last month was Breast Cancer Awareness Month. “Think Pink,” “Run For The Cure.” There are all of these different campaigns aimed at bringing awareness to breast cancer, which is not a bad thing.

We want to bring awareness to cancer. Today, 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will have cancer.

But there are a lot of lies and deceptions associated with cancer. Sickness is the biggest business on earth.

My grandmother had breast cancer. I have very vivid memories of her and the one side of her clothing that always laid flat against the mastectomy she had to undergo. So naturally, I was a huge supporter of the “Pink Movement.”

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Me at 5, with my grandma and grandpa.

There was always that fear that lived inside of me that I may one day have breast cancer.

When I was 19, I had surgery on my left breast. I remember the night I found the lump like it was just yesterday. I was 18 and it was mid November and, as per my nightly routine, felt around for lumps before I went to sleep. For those of you who have had these “this could never happen to me” situations, have an idea of the emotions coursing through me when I made this discovery. Needless to say, I hardly got any sleep that night.

The doctors told me not to worry about it, that it will most likely just go away. Something didn’t feel right though and I pushed it. My mother was in the medical field and she was able to get me a second opinion with the top surgeon in the field. I made them do a biopsy. It was tiny, about the size of a nickel. It wasn’t cancerous and they wanted to leave it but you know that feeling you get sometimes? The one that taps you on the shoulder and tells you that something isn’t right? I wanted it taken out.

My surgery was scheduled 8 months later. A week before my wedding.

I woke up during my surgery. It was suppose to be a quick one, but when they cut me open they found it had grown quite large. The size of a softball. So the surgery went longer then expected and not enough anesthesia was administered. “Doctor, she’s awake… ”

I had a benign, yet aggressive fibroadenoma. I was advised to have yearly mammograms after that. I’m now 31 and still have not had one. Once I had all the facts and a better understanding of cancer and prevention, I was able to make a more well-rounded decision.

Today, 1 in 8 women will have breast cancer.

A couple of years ago, there was a lot of Hollywood hype around the BRCA gene. Angelina Jolie had this gene and she thought that they only way for prevention was to undergo a prophylactic double mastectomy.

She should have been told that our genes do not control our life. You can activate genes and deactivate them. What her doctor should have told her is that the way she lives her life will alter the expression of those genes and her risk of cancer. If we deactivate our genes with our healthy lifestyle, we do not get cancer.

She removed healthy breasts. The BRCA genes are actually cancer-protective genes. They are tumor suppressive, protective genes. They help to repair DNA damage, but if it mutates, then it can cause a problem possibly. But what causes it to mutate?

So do you inherit breast cancer genes? Is it genetic?

“Well, my mother/grandmother had breast cancer so I’m probably going to have breast cancer.”

But we now know through the study of epigenetics, which is the science of looking into gene expression, and nutrigenomics, which is the study of food, we know that we can change our gene expression by what we eat, how we sleep or don’t sleep, and how we manage or don’t manage our stress.

We should not be dying of cancer. The body knows what it’s doing. Nobody believes this anymore. Our bodies are designed to thrive, if we give it half the chance.

First of all, what is cancer? We’ll dive into that next week.

A Pink Ribbon Culture: Pinkwashing

My grandmother had breast cancer. She had a mastectomy and I can still vividly see the empty space in her clothing.

I was nineteen when I had a lump removed from my breast. I remember the day I felt the hard mass. I was eighteen and it was a cool November evening. It was a daily bedtime ritual for me to check for any unusual lumps. I remember the panic rise in my throat. Any chances of a good night’s sleep were just sabotaged by the thoughts that were running through my brain.

My mom took me to the doctor that week and since she is in the medical field, I was taken to the best physician on the subject. I was checked and he concluded that it was nothing to worry about. I knew my body. I have always been very aware of it and my gut instinct told me something was not right.

I insisted on a biopsy. It was benign, thank goodness, but I still wanted it removed; solely for my peace of mind. My surgery was scheduled a month after the biopsy. It was supposed to be a quick procedure and they were not expecting to find what they found when they opened me up. It had grown from the size of the tip of my thumb to the size of a softball. I had an aggressive fibroadenoma. Needless to say, I wasn’t administered the correct amount of anesthesia and I woke up in the middle of the surgery.

“Doctor, she’s awake… ” …and fade back to black. That was not a pleasant experience.

Yearly mammograms were expected of me post surgery especially because I had a family history. I haven’t had one yet for reasons that I will talk about in another post, but fear being the main culprit. Fear of them finding something.

All of that being said, I was a big Pink Ribbon supporter. Emphasis on the WAS. When an opportunity presented itself, I contributed to the breast cancer advocacy movement. That was up until I met my friend Angela. She is the mother of three young, beautiful girls, an Emmy award winning makeup artist and a two-time breast cancer survivor. Our conversations at work lifted the “pink haze” that clouded my view and gave me an authentic perspective. I have seen the scars on her body, a daily reminder of the worst year of her life. But you would never guess that she had this ugly disease. She is a ray of sunshine and I always find it a pleasure to bask in her strength and endurance.

Angela and I

Angela and I

Coming soon to the blog – she will share her experience with us and the monstrous face of breast cancer. Her view of all this Pink Ribbon “awareness” will make you reevaluate your standpoint on the matter. What also fueled many of our conversations was her decision to opt out of chemotherapy and choose a natural approach to treatment. Using food as medicine was a common thread between us.

We are all aware of this cancer but do we really know what it is? I think it is also important for us to see the faces of those who have or have had this cancer. We should not only be aware but we need to know WHAT it is.

Pink heralds that October is here. Pink ribbons everywhere, football players wearing pink garb, hundreds of people coming together to Walk or Run For a Cure, people sporting bracelets with the slogan “I (heart) Boobies.” I noticed though that Breast Cancer Awareness Month has extended itself to more than just October, making it more of a Breast Cancer Awareness season. And as of late, I feel like the Pink Ribbon has become more of a brand, just like the swoosh of Nike or McDonald’s golden arches.

If given a choice, people would rather give their money to a good cause. But have you ever thought about where the money actually goes and how much goes to the actual research? There have been campaigns from big corporations whose contribution was a penny for every purchase. A penny? Really? Wouldn’t it be easier to just write a check or donate directly to the organization?

I started to dig deeper into this thing called “pinkwashing”. There is a great documentary on YouTube called “Pink Ribbons, Inc.” that I highly recommend.

Also, as people are becoming more aware of what is happening to our food supply, companies are using marketing strategies that tug at our heart strings to help increase sales on the very products that cause cancer. So they make the product pink or they slap a Pink Ribbon on the packaging. There is a great article about this on the Huffington Post called “Think Before You Pink: Stop the Distraction.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/karuna-jaggar/think-before-you-pink-sto_b_5910696.html

In the 1940s, a woman’s lifetime risk of breast cancer was 1 in 22. In 2011, it is 1 in 8. The risk factor? Being a woman. But this disease does not discriminate. We have yet to find a cure because we have yet been able to pinpoint the cause. There are so many factors that contribute to this disease. So what is the best course of action? Because I believe we need to start DOING MORE THAN JUST THINKING PINK.

Your thoughts?