Breast cancer does not discriminate. In this case, that’s not a compliment.
It strikes both old and young. It strikes women, and sometimes men, of all races, nationalities and backgrounds.
It strikes the poor and the rich, the insured and the uninsured, mothers, daughters, grandmothers, sisters, aunts and nieces. It doesn’t play favorites.
And that, in many ways, is what makes it so formidable a foe.
About1 in 8 women in the United States, 12 percent of the population, will develop invasive breast cancer, more than 250,000 new cases annually. Another 63,410 new cases of noninvasive breast cancer will be diagnosed. The disease kills some 40,000 women (and a few hundred men) each year.
But however scary and daunting a cancer diagnosis may be, the courage shown by the women who continue to battle it is both inspiring and hopeful, not only to each other but to all families touched by the disease and everyone who hears their stories.
To share those stories and keep the effort a top priority during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, The Times offers its second annual Pink is Stronger Than You Think special section. In it, you’ll find personal narratives from local women who continue to live full, rich lives without letting breast cancer take over, along with stories of medical efforts, coping strategies and support efforts.
Without their tales of perseverance, the fight against such diseases may seem hopeless, though we’ve come a long way in recent years. What once was a death sentence now finds a 5-year survival rate of 90 percent for women diagnosed in time.
Another positive change is that more women are willing to share their stories, and their courage and fortitude rallies millions to the cause. That helps raise money for research and helps save more lives through public support and involvement.
This is what these women provide for us. But what do they most need from their communities to bolster them in their fight? Here are a few suggestions:
- Support, not sympathy.
Getting the medical news from a doctor provides women with information, but they need more than the clinical details. That’s where a circle of sisters wise to the experience can help.
Many support groups are available to help women diagnosed with breast cancer navigate the ups and downs during their journey (a list of such groups is provided in today’s section). Their gatherings let women share laughter and tears, letting them know they’re not alone in the battles they face.
“The reason I wanted to go to a group for support was because I felt lost,” said Robyn Chambers of Flowery Branch. “I needed someone who was going through what I was going through. I have had friends who have gone through breast cancer, but I needed to talk to someone who was going through it right then.”
- Financial assistance.
Cancer treatment is extensive and expensive, and even as treatment options expand, the cost goes up. For women with the best insurance or the means to pay for top-level treatments, the road is easier. “Seinfeld” and “Veep” star Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who recently revealed her own diagnosis, can afford the best health options available. But not every woman has complete insurance coverage, and some have none at all. How do we ensure they don’t fall through the cracks?
The good news is that help is available for women who know where to look. The Patient Advocate Network, a national foundation, offers supplemental financial help to offset the costs of treatment. Other organizations that can provide help include the American Cancer Society, The Cancer Foundation and Glory, Hope & Life.
In addition, some hospitals and health organizations offer free mammogram screenings to help women detect problems early. The Northside Hospital Cancer Institute provides free mammograms and other diagnostic procedures, including biopsies and ultrasounds, for patients who qualify. The screenings are funded by grants from the Atlanta 2-Day Walk for Breast Cancer, Susan G. Komen Greater Atlanta, and the Northside Hospital Foundation. More information is available at 770-667-4400.
Facebook Live event
The Times will interview breast cancer survivors who tell their story of courage and determination.
When: Noon Oct. 18
Sponsored by: iLash 42
Bras for a Cause
When: 4-6 p.m. Oct. 26
Where: Quinlan Visual Arts Center, 514 Green St. NE, Gainesville
How much: Free
- Understanding and patience.
Breast cancer is a personal disease that, more than other types of cancers or afflictions, can take a psychological toll by affecting a woman’s body image and confidence. Yet services and businesses that cater to these needs, be they cosmetic or reconstructive surgery or fashion devices, can help women replace what cancer may have taken away from them.
One such business profiled in today’s section, All About You located in the Longstreet Clinic Cancer Center, helps women suffering from the disease feel whole and empowered.
As part of that effort, The Times is sponsoring Bras for a Cause 4-6 p.m. Oct. 26 at the Quinlan Visual Arts Center in Gainesville, an auction of decorated bras donated by Belk. Proceeds will benefit For Her Glory, a nonprofit that provides wigs to women going through chemotherapy treatments.
In a month renowned for its brilliant colors, pink is the new hue of October and the color of hope. Let’s celebrate the lives of these amazing women, the medical efforts that give them hope and strength, and join the ongoing effort to help fund research toward better medical treatments and, someday, a cure. The women we love deserve no less.
Share your thoughts on this or any other topic in a letter to the editor; you can use this form or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The Times editorial board includes General Manager Norman Baggs, Editor Keith Albertson and Managing Editor Shannon Casas, plus community members Susan DeCrescenzo, Cathy Drerup and Brent Hoffman.