Because my cancer was hormone-sensitive, I need to take a drug called Tamoxifen that is proven to reduce the risk of the cancer returning and possibly spreading to another part of my body. The newest recommendation is to stay on this drug for 10 years. Great news, right? A drug that could actually help keep me alive. I am lucky to have that option. Unfortunately, hormonal therapy for cancer comes with a whack of side effects. The biggest one for me is that I've been told not to get pregnant while taking it, due to its potential to cause birth defects.
Like Angelina, I know the pain of losing one's mother to cancer. My mother also died in her 50s -- in her case it was breast cancer. It was the lack of relevant information about my own risk as young woman whose mother has just passed that lead me to found Rethink Breast Cancer, whose mission is to empower young people who are concerned about or affected by breast cancer. I applaud Angelina Jolie Pitt both for sharing her personal experiences, and for highlighting the importance of taking control of your own health.
Young women with breast cancer present our healthcare professionals with difficult cases. They are often diagnosed with aggressive forms of breast cancer that require tough therapies. And the powerful treatments needed to stop the cancer can cause many complex side effects for young women, including early menopause.
"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.