"Mammograms save lives," read the headline from the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. My heart sank. Not only is this headline unlikely to be true, it's possibly dangerous. Recent research is adding up to what I would call a wholesale re-questioning of the need for mammography based on the fact that the overall benefits seem to be vanishingly small and the harms -- including unnecessary cancer scares, biopsies and surgeries -- considerable.
Caregivers do their best to guide parents as they struggle to talk with their children about cancer, but misunderstanding, denial, and apprehension often distort the communication process. Frustration and fear can build up as parents respond to their child's curiosity with hesitation. Parents must provide appropriate information about cancer to gain the confidence they need to do the best they can for their child.
What a difference a year makes! Last September at this time, I was full of nerves about doing the Pink O Course, a 10km, 30 obstacle race benefiting Rethink Breast Cancer. It seemed the perfect way to honour the many family and friends who I have lost to breast cancer, but also and incredible challenge for me personally because I am a breast cancer survivor.
On behalf of HBCF and in my mother's honor, Jesse Frechione and I are cycling from Alaska to South America. After initially being inspired to take a journey through South America after watching the movie The Motorcycle Diaries, I was convinced it was time to embark on this journey back in February 2011, when my mother underwent a lumpectomy for breast cancer. As we continue to pedal on with hope and excitement, our inspiration increases with each milestone we accomplish.
Just three years ago, my best friend was bugging me to have a mammogram. I kept putting it off because I thought that was something for older women and I felt great. But when I did go and the technician asked me to come back in for another picture, I became nauseous, and all of a sudden I realized that I was vulnerable just like every other woman. What they found was not cancerous, but early detection is the key to survival. Make an appointment to get your breasts examined. It could save your life.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 37 when my children were two, three and six. Some of us knew how to support a mother or grandmother through this disease -- but a friend? Now, I often get calls and emails from friends who are at a loss when another friend has been diagnosed. What can they do to help? Here is a list of things that friends did for me -- or things that I heard of people doing for friends with breast cancer.
Wednesday, the Huffington Post picked up a blog post by Meghan Telpner, which described her impressions of the PinkNic. I'd like to correct some inaccuracies and share some information about the event and the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. The CBCF is the leading community-driven organization in Canada dedicated to creating a future without breast cancer. Since our inception, we have invested some $274 million in our cause. We know much work remains to be done.
I never knew what I was feeling for when I conducted self-exams, but when I found a lump two years ago I knew then what I found was NOT normal. I must have sat on my bed for 20 minutes grappling over what I had felt -- "Is this really a lump? Is it serious? Is it cancerous? How can this be? I'm too young to find a lump!"