October means many things for different people: school has started to settle for parents and students, others are excited by Hallowe’en candy, and winter is at the doorstep as per the current weather here in Montréal. For me, I also note that the month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and I feel grateful for my health and think about the many families that are impacted by diseases such as breast cancer. As I young child, I knew how the diagnosis of breast cancer can shake a family as my mother was diagnosed with the disease at a young age. After battling cancer for eleven years she succumbed to the illness more than a decade ago.
As I grew up witnessing how quickly one can lose their health — something we young people take very much for granted — I have tried my best to live a lifestyle that takes care of myself inside and out. However, I am also being realistic about what I can and cannot control, and I try to educate myself about how to be healthy but also how to enjoy life. To me, this has meant that while I consume a healthy diet I stay away from any overly strict regimens and I exercise regularly without going to extremes. I am also mindful of the personal care and cosmetic products that I use but, as a student and frugal person, my collection of “natural” or organic products are actually much smaller than what my friends often expect for me to have. Same thing with my groceries: While I prefer organic, a lot of these products are out of my budget and I also know that the label organic does not necessarily mean better or healthier.
There is so much information out there what we should and should not do about, and I also feel that a lot of the articles we find in the media border of fear mongering. So many of modern, everyday products are purported to cause some kind of cancer that it would make any normal person anxious. How do you stay healthy and continue living in society without leaving for a hippie commune when all these lists of items supposedly risk your chances of growing a malignant tumour? At the same time, certain factors have been well established by the medical community as having a strong link to causing cancer. Factors like smoking, certain viruses such as Herpes simplex virus-2, and prolonged exposure to radiation fits this bill.
So last year I wrote a blog post called Pink Ribbons for Young Women identifying medically established information that can help women protect themselves from the risks of breast cancer, and the every day habits, products, and other factors that mitigate the risks. Since then, I wrote In Defence of Moustaches and Pink Ribbons regarding the controversies of charities for prostate cancer and breast cancer, respectively, which ended up being featured on Freshly Pressed. And earlier this year, after Angelina Jolie went public about her preventative mastectomy, I wrote about my own journey into genetic testing for breast cancer in the article Breast Cancer, Angelina Jolie and Exploring Genetic Testing.
As it is Breast Cancer Awareness month, I have listed these posts about breast cancer below. Since the fallout from the Komen foundation controversy last year, I find that there has definitely been less coverage regarding Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October. While I support breast cancer awareness and charity initiatives, I am definitely wary of purchasing products marketed as supporting the cause as many of these companies only delegate a small amount of the actual proceeds towards charities (see the pink NFL merchandise scandal). However, I am still all for education and preventative care which I hope will continue despite these unfortunate scandals caused by crooked leadership and unethical corporations.
Being cognizant to the risks of breast cancer doesn’t have to be scary — it’s about being realistic as it affects so many women in their lifetime. It’s also about being in charge of your health and doing what you can do to increase the chances of a long and healthy life. So my advice, as someone who is actively trying to minimize my risk of breast cancer, is to be educated and make the decision to adopt a few key lifestyle changes. But most of all, despite all the ups and down that life brings to our tables, enjoy living and be grateful for the people who are important to you.
Previous Posts about Breast Cancer:
Pink Ribbons for Young Women
In Defence of Moustaches and Pink Ribbons
Breast Cancer, Angelina Jolie and Exploring Genetic Testing