First and foremost, this year, if you want to support women with breast cancer (or cancer patient’s writ large) and all the people supporting their fight against the disease, you can wear a mask, wash your hands, and practice proper social distancing. People undergoing breast cancer treatment are at a greatly heightened risk for contracting the coronavirus and for the symptoms of COVID-19 being much more severe due to immune system weaking caused by chemotherapy, radiation, and of course the effects of the actual illness.
Next, you can wear pink, be it a pink face mask or gaiter that can reduce viral spread, a pink hat, or a pink ribbon on your shirt (or sticker on your car) to show the world this disease is on your mind and to keep it in other people’s minds, too.
But Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which starts on October 1st and runs the length of the month, is about so much more than just being aware of the disease; it’s about taking action to help work towards its cure.
Approximately one in eight American women will develop breast cancer at least once in her lifetime That’s 12% of the population. After non-melanoma skin cancer, the most common cancer in the United States, there are more cases of breast cancer diagnosed annually in America than any other cancers. It’s not a matter of if someone near and dear to you will get breast cancer, it’s when someone will.
So what can you do during Breast Cancer Awareness Month? Plenty.
You can donate money to the National Breast Cancer Foundation knowing your donation will be used to help fund research, development of new medications and treatments, and to support women currently undergoing care for their illness. (You can even host a fundraising event to maximize the efficacy of your efforts.) You can also donate clothing, toiletries, and other essentials to centers that support women with breast cancer.
You can share your own story of how breast cancer affected you and your family through the Snapshots of Hope program, knowing you might be able to bring some solace to families just starting their journey from sickness back to health.
You can volunteer with NBCF, donating time to create care packets, to write encouragement cards, or to lead educational and support seminars in your area that can bring others into the breast cancer support fold. You can also find ways to volunteer your time on an individual basis, driving a cancer patient to a chemotherapy session, getting groceries for someone stuck home by their illness, and so on.
And of course you can and should look to your own health. If you do not already conduct regular self-exams for breast cancer, Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a great time to learn about breast health and learn how to conduct a breast self-exam. This includes knowing when to identify a symptom that merits you getting to a breast cancer specialist for a professional opinion – a breast exam may just save your life, and your own self-exam may be the one that starts that life-saving journey.
So by all means wear pink in October, but don’t stop there.