Oct 10, 2012
I'll bet that title got your attention, huh?
I've actually had this journal up for a day, originally titled "Breast cancer awareness seems unfair to me," but I guess that didn't stand out enough to get the attention for this point that I feel is critical to make for victims of cancer.
Just my opinion, but the awareness, support, and funding that goes into breast cancer seems to be recognized more than any other cancer. Not only that, but, in my opinion, it's been sexualized and the actual cancer is downplayed to, I believe, the misdirected importance instead to "Save the ta-tas" and "Save the racks: big or small, let's save 'em all." The kind of attention "boobies," "racks," "knockers," "hooters," and "ta-tas" bring is the whole reason why I changed the title of this journal.
Well, how about a plain and simple "Save the *victims* of cancer. ALL cancer."
See, the thing is, women (and men) can survive without breasts and it not have a major impact on their health. And as a woman, and as a family member of a breast cancer survivor and close friends of at least three other breast cancer survivors, I respect that breasts are a big deal for us women. But sorry, you can't tell me that living without breasts to save your life from the agonizing effects of cancer is such a big deal that it alters every aspect of your life in a negative way. You can live without boobs.
Now your lungs, your colon, your pancreas, your liver, your kidneys and bladder, huge portions of your skin, your brain...you kinda need those at any given time. A person cannot live without these vital organs, but they CAN live without parts of them in some cases. However, if that is the case, it drastically affects your life. There are no simple prosthetics or replacements for such things. Yet how often to you ever come across a catchy cancer awareness slogan for these things? I can't think of any.
And here's the thing: Lung cancer kills more people worldwide than any other type of cancer. While 80% of cases are caused by smoking, that other 20% of its victims don't necessarily bring lung cancer upon themselves knowingly. But mention lung cancer awareness, and the main things that are associated with its prevention are non-smoking campaigns. Don't get me wrong, that's a good thing, but what about the other victims that are lumped into the stereotype of being smokers just because they got lung cancer?
The second type of cancer that is nearly as deadly as lung cancer is colo-rectal cancer. I have personal experience with this type. My mom just passed away 6½ months ago from colon cancer, a friend of mine from church passed away from colon cancer a year and a half before, and myself, at the age of 22, had a pre-cancerous colon polyp removed during a colonoscopy I scheduled because I'd had blood in my bowel movements for a couple of days and abdominal cramping. What I've unfortunately discovered about colon cancer that I wish I didn't need to know is that the success rate of going into remission and then ultimately becoming cancer free again is basically impossible. That's why the death rate is so incredibly high. People get colon cancer, and despite having portions of their colon surgically removed (and usually ending up with a colostomy bag the rest of their lives), enduring chemo and radiation treatments, they usually get colon cancer again within 5-7 years, at which point it becomes far more resistant to chemo. My mom did not survive the third time she fought this cancer because the chemo failed and the cancer was completely resistant to it.
But I'd like to know how many people of the general public are aware of this, aware of the fact that colon cancer is by far more deadly than breast cancer? I am not saying breast cancer claims its own victims and is not deadly itself. What I'm trying to express here is that the chances of surviving breast cancer are much better than surviving colon or lung cancer, and breast cancer survivors are glamorized (as they should be) while survivors of other cancers are not.
Breast cancer survivors who have endured double mastectomies can proudly have beautiful photography of them topless to show their battle scars. But how often do we see survivors of other cancer bearing their scars for awareness? How often have you seen the survivor of lung cancer in an embellished photo, topless, showing the deep scar across their back, from the top of their shoulder blade to the bottom of their ribs? The recovery from a removal of a lung lobe is excruciatingly painful (my mom's colon cancer was in her lungs and acted very much like lung cancer, which is how I know this), and after the body heals, the victim...the survivor...is never able to breathe the same again. Shorter breath intake makes physical activity more challenging, and the more lung that's removed, the worse it is.
When was the last time you saw an embellished photo of a person bearing a massive scar over their abdomen, where a colostomy bag stoma protrudes and attaches to a bag to collect feces on the hip, maybe for the rest of that person's life? These people are survivors too. Are they not worthy of being glamorized for enduring not just a battle with cancer, but now live with something they feel is embarassing and must hide or just isn't "worthy" to bear proudly? I mean, come on...everyone poops. So take a moment to think about what it must feel like to not be able to function normally for such a basic need of your everyday life...ever again. No, it's not a pretty picture so people think they'd rather not see it. But it's a very real chance of ending up with one if a person is unfortunate enough to get diagnosed with such a common, deadly type of cancer.
Taking a moment to think about colon cancer, the only thing I can think of about any awareness surrounding this deadly disease is "Be sure to get routinely checked by scheduling colonoscopies once you turn 40 years of age and older." Well, the truth is, no one wants a colonoscopy, and no one likes to think about the prep it takes to get them, and then no one wants to get colon cancer either. However, a FAR bigger recognition and awareness is focused on women getting mammograms and doing self-checks in the shower than there is for any given person ages 35-40+ to pay attention to abdominal cramping, check their bowel movements for blood, and emphasize the criticality of getting annual colonoscopies. Maybe I'm just extra passionate about this because colon cancer has touched my life in such a terrible way, but the truth is, I can't name a single survivor of colon cancer or lung cancer. I can name up to four survivors of breast cancer from the last 10 years of my life. In fact, I don't personally know a victim of breast cancer who has passed away. Again, let me emphasize -I don't personally know- of anyone who has passed away from it; I DO know that many women have, and that saddens and angers me as deeply as the loss of my own mother and friend from church. NO ONE should have to suffer the death that cancer brings. It's brutal, agonizing.
What I'm trying to say is that no matter what type of cancer with which a person gets diagnosed, their battle should be recognized, their fight to survive and any victories over this awful disease should be just as glamorous and dignified as any other. Survival of cancer does not come easily. The body and even the mind endures so much trauma and sacrifice of itself.
It just bothers me that breast cancer is so highly recognized, funded, and glamorized, and it's just as much about the sexuality of putting attention on the breast and "saving the ta-tas" even moreso than it seems to be on saving the LIFE of the cancer victim (men get breast cancer too. Rarely, but it happens). Breast cancer awareness is recognized by the baby-pink color that can be applied to everything from clothing to car tags to light bulbs and post-it notes, with procedes going to fund research for its cure, and catchy slogans with "pet names" for the breast.
It just makes me think, how much could we, as a society, as a nation, as human beings just as susceptable to cancer as the other, more evenly distribute such recognition and funding to help boost the survival odds for lung and colon cancer patients, and all other cancer patients too? How much more support could we offer to the victims who feel embarassed by their scars' locations that achieved THEIR victories over cancer? What about the victims that lose a part of themselves that simply can't be seen because it's hidden inside, with the only revelation being a scar somewhere? Are these victors not as worthy of glamor shots just because they didn't lose their breasts?
Before closing, I just want to put this out there. November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. Unlike breast cancer, I'm not aware of any color or slogans that emphasize this type of cancer that is the deadliest of all cancers. But I feel a need to bring this to attention because I feel I may as well have lost my mom to lung cancer just as much as colon cancer, since the tumors that took her life made their home in her lungs.
The month of March is Colo-Rectal Cancer Awareness Month (and also the month of my mom's death from colon cancer). Colonoscopies may not be pleasant to think about or talk about, and even joked about, but if you are at least 40 years old, or younger and have colon problems like I do, please don't brush off the importance of getting a colonoscopy. The earlier colon polyps are found, the less likely you are to get colon cancer. The pre-cancerous polyp I had in me at the age of 22 was "aged" in the biopsy that was done and showed that it would have turned into cancer within about 7-10 years. I am nearly 28 years old now--I could be fighting my own battle with colon cancer soon if I'd avoided that colonoscopy (and believe me, I didn't want to have it done). I've since had two more colonoscopies in five years. I don't mess with the risk of colon cancer. Not after what my family has been through.
And of course this month, the month of October, is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Ladies, get your mammograms and do your self-checks. And by all means, please support the funding of this cancer with the Pink campaigns and all that. The more lives saved, the better. All I really wish to say about the extent of the awareness and funding for this is to perhaps think beyond it being just about breasts, just "ta-tas" and "racks" and pink ribbons and lovely pictures of topless women bearing the scars of having breasts no more.
There are just as many other victims of cancer fighting the SAME battle for their lives. It's all cancer. It's all potentially fatal. No victim, no survivor, should be overlooked because it's not about their boobs or because no one wants to talk about where poop generates or because a lung cancer patient made the mistake of being a smoker, or is assumed to have been a smoker, or because they were able to get on with life after surviving cancer with "invisable, undignified" scars in places no one cares to see.
I just wish all cancer victims, young and old, women and men, children, and particularly victims of the top two deadliest cancers (lung and colon), had odds of survival, remission, and being cancer free for the remainder of their lives that the victims of breast cancer continue to gain.