Cancer, a mutated gene(s) that couldn't repair and gave rise to the dreaded and feared illness. Why? Why me? Why her? Why him? Why them? We don't know. All we can do is try to find answers and solutions for this mystery mutation. Both mainstream and holistic or alternative medicine have made advances in treating cancer, but it's still affecting too many lives.
My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 39 and I was 12. Back in 1991 breast cancer wasn't really something that was discussed much and the support wasn't nearly what it is now. At least in our town it wasn't. I have a few distinct memories of my mom's experience that meant the world to me back then. Here they are.
I believe my mom had to go in for some treatment and I had to stay with my mom's youngest sister. We drove in the dark and I remember getting to her house very late or maybe it was just late for a 12 year-old. My aunt filled me up with so much warmth, from her smile to her hug, to her chicken parmesan. All the comforts that I needed, she gave me in one night. I will never forget that experience.
A second memory that will always stay with me was when my mom and I went shopping. We were in JCPenny and we were both drawn to this crazy looking coat. Part of it was black leather and the rest was all the colors of the rainbow silk. We decided to share it and later coined it our "chemo coat."
The third lasting memory was one summer's day I went with my mom to stay at my gram's house so my mom could get her treatment. We would snuggle in bed together and watch old school cartoons. On the bureau was my aunt's Snoopy phone that served, for me, as a comforting symbol that everything was going to be okay. One day I went with my mom to her hospital appointment. The doctor blew up a latex glove balloon "guy" for me. It was just a glove balloon, but it really meant a whole lot to me at a very scary time. In time, my mom got better and has been a survivor for over 25 years. She has completely changed her lifestyle but it's all worth it because she seems to be in very good health.
With the 3 Day walks, various fundraisers coming up and with Breast Cancer Awareness month right around the corner, I have set out to find answers and also find out how people felt about cancer and the various research efforts. I would like to highlight one article that stood out and the first three stories now. Article from T. Colin Campbell regarding nutrition and Dr. Kelly's research.
Carly Miller, Walker in the 3 Day
"From the age of 13, cancer was a common term in my house. My youngest sister had leukemia when she was 9, underwent different kinds of chemotherapy for 2.5 years and beat it. We then had a year of no treatments; my junior year in high school. Then, the summer before my senior year in high school, a week before I turned 17, my mom was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer. The doctor had originally told her it was a breast infection because it presented as a red, inflamed breast with no lump. Not the normal presentation for breast cancer. She had breastfed 5 children, the youngest was in 8th grade and obviously not breastfeeding anymore. Frustrated, she treated it as a breast infection for a week and then went back to the doctor and told him to figure out what it actually was. After many tests, they determined it was inflammatory breast cancer and said had she not come in when she did, she would have only survived 6 more months. This is a very aggressive form of breast cancer, the 5 year survival rate at that time was not great. Today it is still not amazing, depending on stage when diagnosed (this form is usually a stage III or IV upon diagnosis) and estrogen receptor status, it can be as low as a 34% five year survival rate.
At the age of 49 with five kids ranging in age from 13- 21, my mom was not ready to throw in the towel. In the next 10 months, she underwent chemotherapy, a mastectomy, a stem cell transplant and radiation. It was a harrowing year, but we all made it through, thinking at the end that maybe we had beat the odds. I graduated from high school and chose a University closer to home to be able to help if needed. In January of that next year, my mom had a reoccurrence in her spine, which meant the cancer had metastasized to her bones. For the next four years, we played a balancing game of radiation and chemotherapy, trying to keep the level of cancer cells in her blood low and zapping the sites where they landed.
I graduated from college in May of 1999 and moved back home. My mom died in July, 2 weeks after my birthday. I was able to be there those last 2 months and help where I could. I still have many regrets about that time. Selfish things a college student does instead of spending time with their mom. I wish I had told her more often what an amazing mom she was to me. I wish I had reassured her that it was enough, that what she did was enough for us. But at 22, those words escaped me. And hindsight is always much clearer than when you are in it.
I started walking in the Breast Cancer 3 Day walks that next year. A very good friend of mine saw that I was floundering and found a way to give my emotions an outlet. In the 3 day walks, you walk 20 miles each day for a total of 60 miles. This walk became one of the best things I could do for myself. The thing with cancer is it makes you feel helpless. You watch your mom become weak, her body a shell of what it once was. You watch her cry, giving her comfort when you can. You watch her throw up, again and again, and all you can do is give her a bowl and hold her hair. You watch her tell you she is not ready to die, and all you can do is cry with her. You watch. With the 3 day, I didn't have to watch anymore. I could walk. I could fundraise. I could talk with other men and women who had experienced similar things. And I could walk some more. I didn't have to watch anymore. I didn't have to feel helpless anymore.
I have seen the early detection programs that have been funded by these walks. I have talked with the women who are alive because they got treatment before their cancer had advanced. I have seen these walks do some good. I know we haven't found a cure, but to me, knowing that some children don't have to say goodbye to their moms too soon is enough. And so I walk."
A friend, who wishes to remain anonomous,
"I have toyed with sending this, bc I have not shared this with many! I want to respond to your question "what does fundraising for cancer mean to me!" Honestly, it didn't mean much to me before it has now directly effected me. But now, it is a matter of life and death, (not to sound too dramatic), but in actuality it is true. While pregnant with my 3rd child, I was Dx with a form of leukemia. Yikes, huh! And I have come along way in 21 months, mentally! I am definitely not all the way there, in mindset, but so much better. And this is directly impacted by cancer research. When faced with a disease with no cure, where does one turn?! To the brainy scientists of course. Because of these individuals there are treatments that can put me in remission, and these treatments are on top of there game right now. So, raise that money! I do wish that more focus was put towards the cure vs the treatment, and therefore looking to where it is derived from. I hate not knowing why. So what does it mean to me, my life! I often think back to your mom, and how she fought so hard. She is one of many who I reflect on the possibilities of what can be. Thanks for letting me share!"
Colleen Subin, Cancer Survivor
What Cancer means to me:
Twenty-six years ago at age 39 on Tuesday, October 23, 1990 the diagnosis of breast cancer engulfed me into fear. Fear for my little girls, fear of death for me, guilt, blame and shame because I was a smoker.
By Thursday I was in my father’s Massachusetts radiology clinic undertaking another mammogram. Friday waking up after my first surgery my surgeon confirmed “It was cancer”. He had cut out the tumor with clear margins.
There was no in-person education for me. Though my dad was a radiologist specializing in breast cancer, he had no wisdom to share with me. He did tell me there could be a cure for this by now.
My first oncologist’s explanation was that I drew the short straw.
My girls were told of my diagnosis and there was no more discussion. I could not talk about something I knew nothing about. All I knew was my dad’s sister died of it when she was 41 years old. All I knew to do was to act as “normal’ for them as I could. But nothing was “normal” anymore. My husband’s and kids’ lives went on as usual. My surgeries and treatments took me to Massachusetts for different lengths of time. My appearance changed through hair loss and other chemo ravages. I was unable to prepare my girls for what I didn’t know would happen until it happened.
My girls were ridiculed in school because of my disease. I was ridiculed at my work. My disease created disturbing dis-ease for my family and me.
It was a backwards time. The word breast was not spoken out loud..
The silver lining then was my family who were all there for us. Their upbeat attitudes and helpfulness made a good difference for us.
Breast cancer was a doorway for me to learn to help myself. I researched and learned how to be healthier. Regardless of my second oncologist saying “Stop reading. You read too much.”
Treatments were among my battles. Quitting smoking was another. It took a couple years for me to drop it. My doorway to do quit was another scare that I may have had a recurrence. I prayed to God that if I were okay, I promised to quit smoking. Thank you God and I did.
My research taught me that food effects health. My journey with food is another story with a couple amusing memories from our girls.
The excellent health and lifestyle of our family, our daughters is a consequence of my diagnosis.
For me, my journey has evolved with daily exercise, yoga, meditation, spiritual growth, tea time instead of wine time, quality of sleep and a plant-based diet. My gratitude for the simplicity in my life and its love and beauty has blossomed.
From the daunting turmoil and distress 26 years ago to my uplifted awareness of our awesome universe with all its offerings, all the blessings my family and I have been blessed to share and give to others amaze me daily.
Cancer has caused me to act and find peace and healing. I am most grateful for my wake-up calls. I am not grateful for cancer. I am grateful for my my consciousness.
July 26 on Facebook The American Cancer Society asked How did cancer change your relationship? At Cancer.org, our experts weigh in on what to expect and provide advice on how to fight cancer together.
Cancer does not change relationships. Individuals’ reactions to disease change individuals. From there, relationships change.
Cancer is ugly. The degree a person evolves mindfully and/or in spiritual consciousness is the difference to effect a relationship after such a diagnosis.
What does the 3 day walk and other fundraising efforts for cancer mean to you?
My first weekend as a cancer patient in October 1990 was declared Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the story took up most of the Saturday edition of my local newspaper. My dad, radiologist with breast cancer as his specialty, told me “there could be a cure if they wanted by now”. His sister, my aunt passed away at age 41 of breast cancer.
My first event was Making Strides Against Cancer in Boston September 1993 which was the first year the event was held.
For me it was a day my family came together to support my mom who had had breast cancer, too, and me. It was a day of camaraderie with survivors and their supporters.
I became a team leader to fundraise in later walks.
The events raised the hopes of all. The feeling of working together for a common cause of a cure and helping cancer victims was elating.
"If walking could cure breast cancer," she says, "it would be cured by now.” Kim Irish, director of programming for the advocacy group Breast Cancer ActionSource: http://www.bcaction.org/our-take-on-breast-cancer/patients-before-profits/the-cancer-industry/
In recent years I became aware of the big business that cancer is.
Cancer fundraising organizations are supported/sponsored by for profit companies and many do not state clearly how the money is used.
Money raised goes to pay administrators’ big salaries.
Money goes to pay salaries of those behind the scenes for their services to the charity.
Corporations are unclear as to percentages/amounts of raised money goes to cancer research, needs of cancer patients, etc.
Check out http://thinkbeforeyoupink.org before buying “pink” products.
Where did the pink ribbon come from?
During the month of October, pink ribbons everywhere remind us to race, drive, cook, and shop for the cure. But where did the pink ribbon come from?
In the early 1990s, 68-year-old Charlotte Haley began making peach ribbons by hand in her home. Her daughter, sister, and grandmother had breast cancer. She distributed thousands of ribbons at supermarkets with cards that read: “The National Cancer Institute annual budget is $1.8 billion, only 5 percent goes for cancer prevention. Help us wake up our legislators and America by wearing this ribbon.”
As the word spread, executives from Estée Lauder and Self magazine asked Haley for permission to use her ribbon. Haley refused, and Self magazine was startled by Haley’s answer. “She wanted nothing to do with us. Said we were too commercial.” But Self really wanted to have her ribbon. The magazine consulted its lawyers and was advised to come up with another color. It chose pink, a color that focus groups say is “soothing, comforting, and healing” — everything breast cancer is not. Soon Charlotte Haley’s grassroots peach ribbon was history, and the pink ribbon became the worldwide symbol for breast cancer.
Breast cancer has become the darling of corporate America. Companies use the pink ribbon to sell their products and boost their image with consumers as they boost their bottom line. Meanwhile, breast cancer rates continue to rise every year. Ending the breast cancer epidemic will take more than just pink ribbons and awareness. Learn more about pink ribbon marketing and what you can do to help create real change to end the breast cancer epidemic.
See - “cause-related marketing." Source:
and the pages on that site.
Keely, your question led me to research.
I have learned more than I knew and verified some of my assertions.
I found and read from non-profit cancer industry education site: bcaction.org.
I have learned about the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and the work of stellar Dr. Gabriel N. Hortobagi. Reading an interview of him I felt reassured about my years that I took tamoxifen and raloxifine as being the right thing for me.
I learned about Dr. Susan Love’s site:http://www.dslrf.org/home.asp and her Walk With Love. Her corporate partners state clearly where the proceeds are used. Dr. Susan Love began the breast center at Mass. General. My doctor, director of that breast center since Dr.Love left also worked with her.
So now when I want to donate or raise funds for breast cancer I will think of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and Dr Susan Love Research Foundation.
The Breast Cancer Action Organization is 25 years old. This is the first I have heard about it. This is another organization worthy of my donation.
Tonight I have hope.
My question - how do we spread the word about the groups that honestly truly help people.
Breast cancer For Action tells why we need to act and how. Let’s spread the word… Facebook helps. :)