On February 7 we celebrated World Cancer Day. The declaration and theme of this year's important day is to dispel damaging myths and misconceptions about cancer, and uses the tagline "Cancer -- Did you know?" This day gives anyone who has been touched by cancer a chance to collectively call for improvement of general knowledge around cancer and to raise awareness about some of the misconceptions about the disease.
On a global level, World Cancer Day targets four myths: That cancer's just a health issue; it's a disease of the wealthy, elderly and that found in developed countries; it's a death sentence; and it's my fate.
As an example, data from a recent international study, and initiative of the International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership (includes Canada, Australia, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom) is very revealing. The data reveals there are a variety of reasons why people delay going to the doctor. Some believe that cancer means a death sentence. Others think that if they were to be diagnosed with cancer, the treatment would actually be worse than the cancer itself. Other reasons to delay visiting the doctor are that they are worried about what may be found, or that people are just too busy.
So, if I get this right, the early signs of cancer are being ignored, and people are putting off going to see their doctors because of a variety of fears and their busy schedules.
Having been through cancer, I can attest that nudging yourself out the door was the hardest thing I ever did. I was losing blood from a breast nipple. I knew it wasn't normal. I was also training for a half-marathon. I had read in my running books that this was common among women that were training hard.
It's not like the blood was trickling out constantly. It was a little speck, hardly visible at first. But I went to the doctor anyway. He actually agreed with me that it was quite possible that I was chafing as a result of running, and told me to get a more supportive bra.
And he sent me for a mammogram.
I'd like to say that's how I was diagnosed, but it wasn't. The mammogram came back negative. Turns out I have dense breast tissue, but didn't find this out until I WAS diagnosed.
So I had to push for more testing. You see, I knew something was wrong. We are very in tune with our bodies, if we just sit back and feel. Two weeks after my "normal mammogram" I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
And through all this, was I afraid? Yes, I was terrified.
Was I worried about what they would find? Absolutely, although I inherently knew what was going on; I was just in denial.
Was I too busy to see the doctor? Oh yes! I was working 90 hours per week in a high stress job. The excuse, "I have no time" would have been easy.
Was the treatment worse than the cancer. No. It's not fun; it's just different.
Cancer is not a death sentence. I am a five-year cancer survivor, with intentions to live a full and happy life. Would I be here now if I chose to ignore the signs? Most likely not. And look at all I'd be missing.
So find it in your heart to treat yourself right. If not for you, then for those you love. My daughters were young when I was diagnosed. They're now 18, 16 and almost 13 years old. They need me. They love me. They would miss me terribly if I was gone.
I am here to attest that you have the strength to do it. Whether you initiate it, or that kick in the butt come from someone you love or respect, that doctor appointment can be made. It's not easy, but once you start, you have owned the situation, and more strength will come to you. It will get easier.
And all those myths will be dispelled.