The Harrisburg Area YMCA celebrates Breast Cancer Awareness Month all year round by constantly advocating for our members and community through our programs and outreach. This month, we would like our community to reflect on what Breast Cancer Awareness could mean for them by understanding its history and importance.
“Her”story – Rethink Pink
As we all know, pink is the color associated with the female gender. It represents femininity, romance, tenderness – and health. Merriam-Webster defines “pink” as “in the best of health or condition.” This rather apt phrase embodies the pink ribbon’s iconic placement in the month of October. The need for Breast Cancer Awareness all started with a ribbon; Charlotte Haley of California created peach-colored ribbons in her home back in 1991. This was originally a plea to the National Cancer Institute to spread its wealth to cancer prevention. This call to action got the attention of Evelyn Lauder, of Estée Lauder, who then turned a local woman’s appeal into a national, now global, initiative.
It seems that throughout time, cancer numbers have been on the rise in modern history. This only seems so because of the detection technology that now exists. Modern breast cancer treatment options came to light once scientists understood the relationship between breast cancer and genes. Our modern detection methods have aided scientists in understanding that cancer can be removed before it spreads.
There were many common causes of “breast cancer” in the 17th and 18th centuries. These causes could be anything from physical injury to the breast, a viral contagion, compression from tight clothing, to even curdled milk left in the ducts. Modern technology has taught us preventative care as well as carved a path for treatment options. National Breast Cancer Awareness Month exists to boost awareness of this aggressive disease and to raise funds for research into its prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and cure.
Susan’s Testimonial – 3 Words
A notable person in our Harrisburg Area YMCA family shares her story for the benefit of her community. Her story preaches the necessity of awareness and the vitality of support. Susan Jacobs is a 56-year old mother, wife, and Executive Director of our YMCA Center for Healthy Living. She has made it possible for programs to be stretched out into our community, such as tobacco cessation, diabetes prevention, breast cancer awareness, and much more.
In 2015, Susan was in the right place at the right time when she happened upon a flyer at her daughter’s doctor’s office: if you have a family history of breast cancer, you are at-risk.
This implored Susan to be tested for abnormalities in her BRCA1 gene. Abnormalities like this are passed through generations. Many of Susan’s relatives had suffered from breast cancer. Susan decided to then take a test where she found out that she is extremely susceptible. One thing led to another: the discovery of the abnormal gene allowed her to instead opt for 3D mammograms, or tomosyntheses, which give a more in-depth view of the breast tissue. While getting a routine mammogram only a short while later, the 3D scan indicated that something was wrong. If Susan hadn’t opted for the 3D scan, they would not have found her cancer. “You know what people say, you only hear those 3 words: you have cancer. The rest is a blur.”
Diagnosed at Stage 1A, doctors uncovered Susan’s cancer at the earliest stage. Through two surgeries and oral chemo, Susan is now cancer-free. Upon reflection, Susan praised the YMCA’s LIVESTRONG® program, which hadn’t been officially up and running when she got her diagnosis. “It’s a terrific program, [coaching a session] gave me the perspective to see how much support it can actually give someone.” LIVESTRONG® at the YMCA is a program that helps adult cancer survivors restore their health and well-being following a cancer diagnosis. Cancer survivors can seek help through this program at no cost, while also receiving a free YMCA membership for them and their family.
Breast Cancer Awareness – In October, We Wear Pink!
Susan’s best words of advice for women in the community echo one of the core purposes of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. “Get your screening.” Women turning 50 or older are advised to get a yearly mammogram. In turn, those with a family history like Susan are told even earlier, at 40 years old.
Why should you be aware? The facts are practically glaring enough. There are nearly 3.1 million women with a history of breast cancer in the US as of March 2017. Next to skin cancer, it is the number one fatality of women across the nation. Therefore, getting your screenings and catching it early is one of the very fortunate factors in Susan’s case.
There are scores of ways we can help these 3.1 million women. Donating is more significant than you think: 81% of spending done by the National Breast Cancer Foundation went to providing mammograms, breast health services, education, and support for those in need. Not all help is monetary:
- Volunteer for a cause. Making Strides Against Breast Cancer or Bras Across the Bridge raise money and can always afford extra support.
- Donate your hair; losing their hair is one of the many harsh realities women face after diagnosis.
- Wear a pink ribbon. Something small but symbolic helps spread awareness in the simplest way.
Visit HerCampus to learn about more ways to help during the month of October.
–Madeline Kelly, Digital Communications Coordinator