By Noel Beck
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and I have always had mixed feelings about this month. My mom found out she had breast cancer back in 1999 and then passed away from the on-again/off-again diagnosis in 2010. She and some of her friends would do the walks when I was little, but as I got older, I started to wonder why we are not finding a cure or at least better health techniques when so much money is being donated during the month of October. I know it helps people feel like they are supporting their friends and loved ones, but I have found that doing some good, old-fashioned, self care is what helps us take preventative measures for our own futures.
Cancer isn’t predictable and it isn’t pretty, but here are a few simple ways to take care of yourself and honor your breasts.
Lead by Example
Perform monthly self breast exams, get knowledgeable about your body, and schedule regular mammograms. I have been told since I was 17 that I would have to have my first mammogram at 30. This is 10 years younger than most women, but with my family history it makes sense. Make sure you schedule a clinical breast exam with your primary care physician, too. I have mine done every year at my annual visit. Set a good example for the loved ones around you by incorporating healthy practices. This can include starting a garden, eating as organic as possible, exercising regularly, and packing healthy lunches for your kids.
Talk to Your Family and Friends
Teach your children about self care and good breast health. Tell them about the health risks that come with smoking and alcohol. The smoking aspect is what my mom’s doctors believed was a major factor that contributed to her breast cancer. Talk with your kids, siblings, parents and grandparents about your family’s health history and don’t be afraid to tell your doctors. Consider talking to your sister, mom, or best friend about getting a mammogram. A friend of mine had her first mammogram a couple of years ago and she said it was easy breezy where they just smooshed her breasts and then sent her on her way!
Give a Meaningful Gift
Go out of your way to show someone you care. If someone close to you is struggling with cancer, offer to get their groceries, bake them a casserole, take them to a doctor’s appointment, or just be there for them when they need it. This was the most helpful thing that our community did for us. Remembering the kind people who baked us home cooked meals, and helped us out with grocery shopping was a wonderful thing in a difficult time. A gift doesn’t have to involve money or the purchase of a material item. Just being there for someone makes a world of difference.
Consider raising money for a good cause, attending a local event, or starting your own fundraiser during the month of October. I think local charities are the best, because you can see that money going directly back to the community. Diana Price Fish (which closed in 2009) was one such organization that allowed my mom to get out of the house and take us to plays, musicals and concerts. It made living with cancer not so serious 100% of the time.
Take Care of Yourself
Put in the effort to take care of yourself and this goes beyond eating right. Of course, it’s good to avoid processed foods, but also make sure you are exercising and curbing any habits that negatively affect your health. Replace them with good ones. Turn your 10 minute smoke break into a 10 minute walk break. Avoid staying up to late and try hitting the sack even 20 minutes earlier. Change your monthly Girl’s Night into a Girl’s Spa Day and get massages. Stress is the number one cancer causing problem. Stay active and relaxed (which is one of the most difficult things out there for some reason) and stay positive.
It’s all about little changes to make small steps toward health. Breast health goes beyond routine breast exams, it starts with the food you eat and getting outdoors to everything in between.