Breast cancer awareness month sheds light on the startling realities of the disease—like the fact that every two minutes, a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States. But beyond learning the hard facts, and how you can get involved to support the fight, the month also serves as an opportunity to complete a simple, yet powerful exercise in honor of the women and men impacted by the disease.
It’s an opportunity to talk.
Here at Classy, we wanted to honor breast cancer awareness month by taking a moment to share our individual perspectives with one another, and with you. We decided to be vulnerable—to speak up about what scares us, what inspires us, and what gives us hope. We decided to learn more about the disease by learning more about each other.
And we hope you’ll join us.
What the Fight Means to Classy
The Four Most Important Women in My Life
“To me, the fight against breast cancer is about the four most important women in my life: my mother, my sister, and my two nieces. My mom and sister are the epitome of strength to me, and have made me the man I am. For my nieces, I hope for a cure, I hope for better preventative care, for better screening, for better education, so that they can live what are going to undoubtedly be extraordinary lives without the burden or fear of breast cancer.
Free and Accessible Cancer Testing
“As a cervical cancer survivor, I am eternally grateful that I live in a state that offers free and accessible cancer testing via Planned Parenthood. I am also grateful that I have been educated to get my “well-woman exam” every year. I caught my cancer extremely early, got treated, and now I am totally fine. However, I am fully aware that there are millions of people in my country who are not as fortunate as I am. The fight against breast cancer means doing whatever it takes to ensure that everyone has the access and education to get tested as often as medically suggested, AND treated—regardless of their gender, age, background, financial situation, and location.
Choosing Bravery and Courage
“To me, the fight against breast cancer is about those who are living with or have been affected by the disease, but have chosen bravery and courage instead of letting the disease win.
I Am Confident She Will Win Again
“For me it is simple. The fight against breast cancer means Aunt Roxie! She has fought and beat breast cancer twice in the last 10 years and happens to be in the battle again for a third time. I am confident she will win again because she is a winner, but without others fighting it would be much more difficult for her.
This Is a World Problem
“One in eight women will develop breast cancer over the course of their lifetime. This means that if I’m personally lucky enough to be one of the 7 in 8 women who aren’t affected, my mother, or one of my friends or aunts—or one of their friends, sisters, mothers, or aunts—will likely be. This is not a fight against a disease that may impact my life; this is a fight against a disease that will and already is impacting all of our lives. This is a world problem and one that we can solve for when we are all working against it together.
She Is My Hero
“Four Dreaded Words:
‘I have breast cancer.’
Eighteen years ago my mom was first diagnosed.
‘I have breast cancer.’
Two weeks ago, my mom was diagnosed again.
To me, breast cancer is a jolting wake up call. It shakes you in your core, makes you open your eyes, face true fear, feel real emotion, and remember that there is so much that we cannot control.
My mom is my world.
She is my light. She is my strength. She is my hero.
My mom is a survivor.
“For me, the words ‘cancer survivor’ say more to me about someone’s strength of character than any other words in the English language. My mom earned that title by defeating breast cancer. Twice. Each time I think of her, I’m reminded of her commitment to prioritize the people, places, and experiences that make her happiest, and her ability to inspire others to do the same.
Her Fight to Live a Life Defined by the Person She Desired to Be
“I was privileged enough to be raised by a woman that taught me courage, compassion, ambition, appreciation, and love through her fight to live a life defined by the person she desired to be, not by letting the disease define her. Losing my mother to cancer at age 16 is not what makes me the person I am today; it’s what I learned from her actions in the face of adversity that defines how I desire to live my life. ‘I’m not afraid of tomorrow, for I have seen yesterday and I love today.’
Her Son Saved Her Life
“One of my friends from sleep-away camp whom I have known since I was 10-years-old was diagnosed with breast cancer 22 weeks pregnant. The reason it was discovered is because the hormones from pregnancy made the tumor on her breast grow quicker than it would have otherwise. In her own words, her son saved her life.
With all of the advancements and money being spent to find a cure, we as a society need to do more to empower women to own their breast (and other) health no matter their age. My hope for the fight against breast cancer is awareness at any age, any race, any ethnicity, so women everywhere no longer have to wait until they are at the ‘right’ age to take their breast health seriously.
The Choice to Be Happy
“ My best friend Alex lost his mum when we were 16. Her name was Caroline and without a doubt, she was like a mum to me too. She was graceful, funny, strong, feminine, and full of love. That didn’t change when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Until the last day I saw her, she was smiling.
What that taught me is that those who face the greatest adversities become the world’s greatest optimists. We have a choice to be happy no matter what fight we are fighting, whether we win or lose. After her passing, Alex’s dad sold their family home and bought a sailboat. They named it after Caroline and traveled around the world in her memory as a family. Here’s to you Caroline! Miss you!
It Needs to Be Talked About
“I don’t have a personal connection, but I know that 1 in 8 women will develop it at some point in their lives. I also know that men are about 100 times less likely to develop it, but it’s still a risk and it needs to be talked about. While finding a cure or developing better treatments would be amazing, I think it’s important for women and men to become super aware and comfortable talking about the early signs of breast cancer.
Living Your Best Life
“To me, the fight means empowerment, resilience, being courageous enough to believe each person can make a difference, and refusing to live anything less than your best life.
Choosing to See
“When one of my best friends had a scare, the range of emotions that followed seemed mine alone until I remembered that they were shared by so many others—those whom I know and don’t know. This fight is about coming together rather than standing alone. It’s about choosing to see rather than turning a blind eye. And it’s about choosing courage, compassion, and hope.
Coming Together to Overcome
“The ‘fight’ is a force of humanity coming together to overcome something that seems unconquerable. It might take a while, but humans have overcome challenges of great magnitude in the past. The important part is that all of us stick together, carry those who can’t walk, lift the burden from those who can’t stand, and inspire hope in those that have none.
Not in the Fight Alone
“Every woman who is diagnosed with breast cancer is not in the fight alone thanks to the nonprofits and organizations who are committed to finding a cure.
It Takes a Village
“My mom is a three year breast cancer survivor so when I think about the two years she spent at various hospitals, hundreds of doctor appointments, and weekly chemo and radiation treatments I think of all the love and support she felt from all of the nurses and doctors, strangers that turned to new friends, old friends and colleagues, family, and other fellow survivors that impacted her journey. So when I think about the fight against breast cancer, the phrase, “it takes a village” takes on a whole new meaning.
The Only Word to Describe Her Accurately is “Fighter”
“ I have a dear friend who was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer six years ago, at the age of 28. She has exhausted all of the chemo rounds that they will allow your body to undergo, along with a double mastectomy. She most recently had to leave the job she loves in San Francisco because the Bay Area does not have any hospitals that specialize in breast cancer. At the age of 34, she’s moved home to Seattle to live with her parents and specifically to continue this battle with breast cancer at the UW Healthcare system because they hopefully have the specialization and care to continue to help her fight this battle.
I tell this story, not to make anyone feel badly, it’s more because through the last six years of hell that she has endured, the only word to describe her accurately is “fighter.” She has never once complained, but instead has chosen to live every day as if it could be her last. The year she was diagnosed, she made the commitment to travel to a new country twice a year and although she sometimes physically has had to postpone the trips due to the illness, she has not wavered on her commitments to herself. She has been to Thailand, Columbia, Turkey, Spain, Mexico… the list goes on and on. She lives everyday to the fullest, works 10+ hour days, is an amazing friend, sister, daughter, and rock. She never says “why me?” and instead perseveres with more life than the healthiest people I know.
Occasionally, bad thoughts creep into my mind and I think about the day when I will get the call that my dear friend is no longer with us…. and the arrangements I will need to make to pay my respects to one of the most incredible human beings I have had the good fortune to know. But the thing about Amanda is, that she is full of surprises, and the moment I start to feel badly, she rebounds and we get a couple good months together again. Currently, she is in a low point and her treatments are really taking a toll on her body and we are unable to visit her… I hope and pray that this just means that sunnier days are again ahead of us and we will soon be reunited. Since Amanda was diagnosed, she probably should never have lived past 12 months, but I truly believe her spirit and fight have given her six-plus years and I hope decades more!
To me, the fight is two-fold. On one hand, it’s about fighting the disease. It’s about having the self-awareness and courage to speak up and ask for help when something is wrong.
On the other hand, it’s about fighting for your life. It’s about the way in which my brother chose to face his own mortality in his battle against cancer. It’s about how he knowingly left this world completely immersed in the things that were important to him. It’s about how he fought for his quality of life and how he pushed to make every single second count, how he strove to be his truest, loudest, most outspoken self to the bitter end.
It’s your turn to speak up in honor of breast cancer awareness month. What does the fight against breast cancer mean to you? We’d be honored to hear your story in the comments below.