BREAST CANCER AWARENESS
By Nancy Williams,
Licensed Counselor and Life Coach
CBN.com October welcomes cooler temperatures, fall leaves with their vibrant golds, reds, and oranges, and community harvest celebrations. It also brings an important focus: breast cancer awareness.
Breast Cancer Facts
Just look at the impact breast cancer currently has on the lives of women in the United States:
- With the exception of non-melanoma skin cancers, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women.
- Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women. Lung cancer is the first.
- The chance that a woman will develop invasive breast cancer at some time in her life is about one in eight. That’s 13% of women.
- Estimates suggest that about 230,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed this year among women in the United States.
- Currently there are more than 2.6 million breast cancer survivors in the United States.
- Relative survival rates for women diagnosed with breast cancer are as follows: 89 percent at five years after diagnosis, 82 percent after 10 years, and 77 percent after 15 years.
- The good news: Death rates from breast cancer continue to decline. This is generally attributed to earlier detection and improved treatment.
Source: The American Cancer Society’s Facts & Figures for 2011-2012. (Visit www.cancer.org.)
A Cancer Survivor’s Tale
Spend time with friends, co-workers, and family members who are breast cancer survivors and you’ll find powerful examples of courage in the face of fear, strength overcoming weakness, determination that perseveres, and trust that endures. The battles they fight physically and emotionally, the experiences they encounter, and the lessons they learn all weave together, creating a powerful story of loss, of love, and of hope.
Cancer has made its presence known to me most recently through my new daughter-in-law, Andrea. While she battled a different form of this disease, her story is similar to those I’ve heard from many survivors, including those who confront breast cancer:
I am training to participate in an endurance event next month in Austin, Texas, as a member of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team in Training. I'm excited to run the race in my new hometown and have my husband, Aaron, there to cheer me on! Cancer has touched everyone's lives in one way or another, and the research that organizations like Team in Training do is so important.
I was diagnosed with cancer in November 2005, two weeks before Aaron and I were married. It was beyond shocking. Anyone who has been through or seen his or her family go through this experience knows how life altering it can be. I had no symptoms, no clues that anything could be wrong with my health, but that just serves as a reminder that cancer doesn't discriminate against age, race, health, education, or finances. I was blessed to be surrounded by a great doctor, supportive friends and family, and my amazing husband to stand by me during that time. I underwent surgery to remove the cancerous cells and went to my first follow up to find that the bad cells are gone and I am cancer free! I realize every day how lucky I am to have had the care my doctor gave me. Her perseverance in chasing down those cancerous cells is why I am still able to have a family someday.
Two days after I found out I was OK, I signed up for Team in Training so I could give back and play a role in finding a cure for cancer. It's my goal to help others dealing with the effects of cancer and to aid research to help prevent cancer from taking more lives.
While working at Texas Oncology, a major facility in Austin that treats patients with all types of cancers, I’ve seen the amazing strength these patients possess as they go through chemo, radiation, and diagnostic testing to monitor their health. Their courage is an inspiration to me. I'm hoping to bring some hope and a smile into their lives.
Perhaps you can relate to Andrea’s story – as a cancer survivor yourself or as one who stands on the sidelines offering support. I treasure the precious gift of time spent with cancer survivors who have touched my life. While their battles with this disease have been unique in their onset, treatment, and outcome, they’ve shared some common experiences along their journeys. Together, we’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve complained, we’ve celebrated, we’ve dreamed. We continue to hope. We continue to pray. They have been the teachers, while I have humbly been their student. They have poured out generously from the well of their experiences as I’ve sat at their feet, soaking up priceless life lessons.
Listen with your mind and your heart to the wisdom they have shared:
- Life is not always fair.
- Fighting cancer is hard work.
- You don’t always have a choice about what comes into your life, but you do have a choice about how you will respond.
- Planning for the future is important, but the reality is this: You have the certainty of only this present moment. How will you make it count?
- Don’t take anything for granted.
- It’s important to take charge of your life and your health. Understand how your body functions and then make healthy lifestyle choices. When in doubt, ask, and keep on asking until you understand.
- Some of the most beautiful women you will meet are bald.
- Don’t save the good china just for company.
- The journey of life takes unexpected twists and turns. While each of us is responsible for how we travel along that path, we don’t have to make the trip alone. Friends and family are waiting to come alongside, offering encouragement, assistance, and companionship.
- Laughter is great medicine.
- Encouragement is a priceless gift.
- The commitment to take “one day at a time” isn’t just for 12-step groups.
- We all have much to teach each other and much to learn. Take time to share your life lessons with those around you and listen to their stories – with your mind and with your heart.
- Prayer is powerful, not just for the one with the need being voiced, but also for the one offering the prayer.
- When you think you can’t take another step, stop and rest. Then take a deep breath and dig into the center of your soul to find strength and courage from the Lord for the next step. His grace is truly amazing and His mercies never failing.
The focus this month is on awareness, so let’s be aware – not only aware of our health and our needs, but also aware of those around us who courageously fight a battle with cancer. Survivors need our support; we must listen to them, pray for them, and help them with their daily needs. In addition, we need to be present for the families and caregivers who face their own unique challenges. We can also celebrate with survivors who claim victory in their battle and remember those whose lives on earth have come to a close.
The opportunities are ours to foster hope, fuel inspiration, and help turn possibilities into successful realities. We have made great strides, yet there is still far to go. Let’s keep walking. Let’s keep running. Let’s keep giving. Let’s keep working. Let’s keep praying. Let’s keep hope alive… this month and every month.
Copyright © Nancy Williams. Used by permission.
Personal note: While I have not been personally diagnosed with cancer myself, I have traveled the cancer survivor’s path numerous times along side my sister, my mother, friends, and clients.
Nancy Williams maintains a private counseling practice in Houston, Texas, providing counseling, coaching, and consulting services to adults in a Christian setting. Nancy has a special interest in supporting women facing various life management issues, with a focus on personal growth, healing, and spiritual renewal. An experienced conference speaker, teacher, and writer, Nancy weaves together warmth, wit, and wisdom as she genuinely connects with her listeners and challenges them to live their best life.
Nancy also enjoys writing an inspirational newspaper column focusing on life management entitled “Keeping Your Balance,” currently appearing in six weekly community papers in the northeast Houston, Texas, area. Keeping Your Balance…Finding Your Way (Copyright © 2004) is a collection of some of her early columns. She also writes frequently for The Forest Image, a bimonthly news magazine. Nancy can be reached through her Web site: www.nancywilliams.net.
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