My wife wrote the following. As someone who has gone through intense chemo and radiotherapy and is coming to terms with her new normal I thought her opinion worth sharing with a wider audience.
The Breast Cancer Awareness season is upon us. Some of us may have even taken part in a walk/run or hosted a Strawberry Tea. Or, perhaps you are planning a Macmillan Coffee Morning. Awareness is important and wearing pink ribbons and reciting catch phrases like”Save the Tatas” play an important role in detection and early diagnosis. However, I want to educate you as to what lies beyond awareness and diagnosis.This time last year, I certainly had no clue.
Cute slogans like “Save the Tatas” don’t really give an accurate picture of what we face. Once diagnosed, those tatas can’t be saved. They will in some way be altered, mutilated in order to attempt to save the life that this catch phrase conveniently ignores. In addition to ignoring the humanity of the person behind the boobs, this slogan manages to both ignore and alienate men diagnosed with breast cancer. With all this chintzy pink and concern about saving tatas, where do they fit in?
Breast Cancer survivors are grateful for the all of the work and effort placed into building awareness, however, I would encourage you to go one step further over the next few months. Primary breast cancer is treatable and is not in itself terminal. However, for those of us diagnosed with breast cancer the real concern is secondary, or metastatic breast cancer, which is not curable. Early detection and treatment does not guarantee a cure and we will always, no matter how many years pass, continue to fear that 5, 10, 15, or 20 years down the line we will hear those dreaded words that the cancer has not only come back, but it has spread. That is our reality.
Research for metastatic breast cancer lacks funding. Metastatic breast cancer is scary. It isn’t a pleasant topic, but in order to find a cure or discover life prolonging treatments, it is essential to build awareness around this topic, not just around early detection. Over the next few months, while you plan your Macmillan Coffee Mornings, prep for your fundraising runs, or purchase your pink ribbons, please consider donating to organisations that actively fund secondary breast cancer research.