Breast Cancer Awareness Month Starts with You

It is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and it’s pretty safe to say that no one is more aware of it than people who have it – and I say people and not women because men can develop it as well. The question is whether people who have breast cancer do enough to raise awareness of it. And the answer would be something along the lines of, “these poor individuals already have enough to deal with, and you expect them to raise awareness about their own damn condition on top of everything. How do you sleep at night?” And the answer to that question would be “not very well,” but that’s for unrelated reasons.

The sad truth is though, that some – not all – people with this condition sometimes do little to make their disease known to even their nearest and dearest, be it on Breast Cancer Awareness Month or the Ides of March. Let’s take for instance romance novelist Jackie Collins, who on September 19th died of breast cancer two weeks shy of turning 78. According to Wikipedia – which is to me what Plutarch was to Shakespeare – “she had been diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer more than six years before her death but kept her illness almost entirely to herself,” and only told her more famous sister Joan “two weeks before she died.” Curious how she got breast cancer after writing so many books in which breasts were so prominently featured – or so I assume; I haven’t really read any.

Although there is certainly something to be about the courage that it requires to face cancer alone, there is also something to be said about the wisdom of sharing your diagnosis with others – especially your loved ones. For example, the Mayo Clinic website says that “You may find it helpful and encouraging to talk to other women with breast cancer. Contact the American Cancer Society to find out about support groups in your area and online.” It also advises to “Find a friend or family member who is a good listener,” and to “keep your friends and family close” since they “can provide a crucial support network for you during your cancer treatment.”

Moreover, the National Breast Cancer Foundation is offering, as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a tool called Beyond the Shock. The foundation’s website describes it, among other things, as “a place for loved ones to gain a better understanding of the disease.” But do you think that Joan Collins would have taken time away from being the Joan Collins to check out such a resource out of the clear blue sky? Had her sister let her know about her condition, however, I personally would like to think that Joan Collins would have made an effort to learn as much as she could about breast cancer and help her sister out in any way possible. After all, this is Joan Collins and not Joan Crawford we’re talking about here.

In addition to letting friends and family know, people with breast cancer should tell anyone that will listen. And considering that according to the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program (SEER), female breast cancer is the most common type of cancer (231,840 new cases of and 40,290 deaths expected for 2015), there will be plenty of friends, Romans, countrymen and countrywomen that will lend their ears on this Breast Cancer Awareness Month. That is why entities such as the American Cancer Society have a section for survivor stories on their websites. They often call this or that cancer a ‘silent killer,’ and breast cancer may very well fit that definition. But the deadliest silence is that which comes from the patients themselves.

Related: Caring for someone with breast cancer