It is the month of October, which is also breast cancer awareness month. October allows us to show our support and love towards all those who have been diagnosed with and who have recovered from breast cancer. It is also the perfect opportunity to spread awareness of this deadly disease and what people can do to help improve conditions for those affected by it. Breast cancer awareness month gives us an opportunity to show our support by wearing the pink ribbon all month long to show that we care, and that there is hope to make change for the future to find a cure.
Breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer and can appear in both men and women. According to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF), 2.3 million women were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2020 alone. Breast cancer can be hereditary, adapt over time, or appear spontaneously; if it isn’t discovered in time, the effects can be harder to reverse.
Patients with breast cancer may have to go through months of chemotherapy and radiation and sometimes get surgery to prevent the cancer spreading and having a larger effect on their body, but even then, survival isn’t guaranteed. BCRF states that in 2021, “it is estimated that 44,000 breast cancer deaths will occur”,” even though this is prediction is grime, the month of October is a time to look up to those who have fought through and those who are still fighting and to give them all the support and praise they need.
According to the BCRF, the five and 10-year relative survival rates for women with invasive breast cancer are 90 percent and 83 percent, respectively. The rates of breast cancer survivors are relatively high, based on statistics alone. However, it also comes with months of pain, endurance, and motivation.
Breast cancer has had a large impact on many lives, Even some students here on campus have experience with family and friends who have breast cancer, and reflect on it even today. “My aunt is a 9-year survivor, she was diagnosed with breast cancer for two years,” Angelo Padro, a biology student said. “Even though she is a survivor, I continue to participate and show my support by taking part in campaigns and fundraisers to help others who also had people in their families with breast cancer too.”
Students show their support because they want to show that they care, and want to express to others how important the cause really is. “I knew this sweet woman who was always so kind to me with two adorable sons. She was one of the kindest people I’ve met, but she passed from breast cancer,” Estellsy Acachutil, a biology student, explained. “She was going through such a rough time, and yet continued to be so sweet to me. I couldn’t forget someone as kind and as loving as her.”
The families of those diagnosed with breast cancer are looked up to so highly and are respected and loved, because they never give up. We have to be there to cheer them on and encourage them to keep fighting no matter what, because there is hope. “Even though my family hasn’t been affected by breast cancer, I know that it’s a very important month that everyone should be aware of. With how much it impacts women in the country alone, I can’t help but be constantly thinking about those around me. It makes me want to be involved, and let others know about it too,” business student Arianna Hill said.
Outside of the University, there are many community members who have experience battling this disease. Three sisters from Essex County, Charlotte, Irma and Niecy Hall, who are all breast cancer survivors, spoke on their experiences and how they were impacted during what they see as the hardest times of their lives.
“I was angry, afraid, and I asked God, ‘why me?’ I was by myself when the doctor had told me, so even though I was isolated, it all felt too suffocating and overwhelming to me. I cried like a baby, but in that moment, it was necessary,” six year breast cancer survivor Charlotte Hall described. “The hardest thing I had to do was tell my children, siblings, and my close circle of friends and family…I was very hesitant to tell my mother because she had a weak heart and was in and out of the hospital. I knew that as her youngest child out of seven children, it would put a huge amount of weight on her. My skin had gotten darker, and my hair started to fall out, and with prior experience with my sisters having it, she knew that I had breast cancer too. It was hard staying motivated, but I had a praying mother and people who encouraged me to keep going. I thank God for my life, I live life the fullest as if it is my last. I am grateful for everything that has happened and was given to me because I know everything happens for a reason. And I learned to accept that and make the most of it.”
Breast cancer survivor Irma Hall, who battled it for 21 years, also shared her story. “I was diagnosed in 2000, while my grandson was a newborn. I was going back and forth to the doctor and also went through chemo and radiation while continuing to put him first and take care of him. I didn’t want anybody to put me down and I kept going because I knew I needed to raise my grandson. God kept me here because I had a duty to still be here on this earth. My kids and my mother kept me motivated to push through, along with my siblings….I thank God that I’m still here, and I’m glad that I’m here to tell others my story. I’m good, I’m happy, and I’m blessed.”
She says that there are people who need to hear her story of how she fought through breast cancer, because more people need know how truly complicated that position is. She made it work, while taking care of her children and never giving up.
Niecy Hall also speaks on her perspective as a two-time breast cancer survivor. “I was afraid but was expecting it to happen eventually because of my sisters having it and it being hereditary in the family. I kept myself determined that I would get through this obstacle, and also had my mom there praying for me. However, the second time I had been diagnosed with breast cancer, I was very devastated since my mom wasn’t there with me and it was a much tougher obstacle I had to overcome since I had to go through both chemo and radiation, which was taking more of a bigger toll on my body. The doctors wanted me to stop taking chemo because it was making me really sick, but I knew I had to beat this again, and by the grace of God, I did. I thank god for my older sister, who had unfortunately passed away from stage 4 breast cancer, but I live to tell my story and her own as cancer fighters and warriors.”
So, what can you do to raise awareness? There are many ways people can get each other involved in breast cancer awareness, especially here on campus. First, one can repp pink throughout the month, whether it’s a shirt, hat, scarf, or even accessories. Wearing a pink ribbon pin is very supportive, especially since you’re getting other people aware of what you’re repping for. Second, hosting or taking part in events such as fundraisers or campaigns to get people to support and be aware of the current effort is very beneficial.
There have been some fundraisers already at the University; the Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA) sorority passed out cookies, brownies, and lemonade, and the field hockey team repped pink and handed out ribbons during their game. Both also donated to the breast cancer research foundation.
This is also the time of year in which the annual breast cancer walk takes place, where thousands of people get together and walk in unison to show their support, hope, love, and awareness on the issue. You can be a part of it too, and even invite your friends and fellow classmates here on campus to be part of the cause. It only takes one step at a time to be part of the change. You can also donate to the American Cancer Society to help make strides against breast cancer and be a part of finding a cure that can save many lives.