- Colleen Tanona ’22 & Audrey Basta ’23
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which recently gave members of the school community the time to recognize the struggle that a large percentage of women endure. One in eight women in the US will get invasive breast cancer at some point in her life, which means that ? of all female students, faculty and staff at Sacred Heart, will develop breast cancer.
Cancer is very persistent in the sense that it can go away and come back even after extensive treatment, which is painful and can have a lot of side effects. When a woman turns forty, she is encouraged to get screenings, called mammograms, every six months to one year. If there is a history of breast cancer in the family, it is recommended that the mammograms begin at an even younger age. These screenings are extremely important because when caught early, breast cancer is a lot easier to treat.
Despite the treatments that have developed, it is still important to understand that there are people who still lose the battle even after trying everything that they could. As a result, during the month of October, the SHP community celebrated all breast cancer survivors as well as remembered the warriors who are no longer with us.
At the Under The Lights football game, the majority of students were wearing pink clothing, prominently the “Gators” shirt with a pink ribbon on it. By wearing the color pink, which is often associated with the awareness of breast cancer, the community supported the women who have to go through this unfortunate experience. The entire school uniting in support of affected women across the country was a special sight. However, with the month recently coming to an end, it is important to reflect on the impact that breast cancer can have on one’s life and what a person can do to support somebody who is suffering.
Breast cancer survivors often have a very different outlook on life. A breast cancer survivor from the SHP community who agreed to share her experience said, “Without this diagnosis, I may not have had the opportunity to see first hand just how strong and thoughtful my daughters are and how they somehow never made my cancer about them.” While she still suffered great physical and emotional pain from her treatment, she has a new outlook on life and is grateful for every single day.
She also felt that the SHP community was extremely supportive of her journey to recovery, saying, “The Sacred Heart community is also full of amazing people all willing and happy to come together to help those going through a difficult time. I found that people I hardly knew would reach out and offer help or to connect me to someone who might be helpful.” She also stressed that survivors of breast cancer want to support their fellow warriors through their journey. At the end of the interview, she explained the importance of early detection in her situation. Having caught her cancer in its first stage, she was able to form a plan of action and act on it knowing that she was in good hands.
Others have very different experiences with cancer. One member of the SHP community, when explaining how cancer affected her life indirectly by causing the death of a loved one said, “Cancer, while it causes immense pain and hardship ultimately can change a person’s view on the world.” She talked about how her loved one accepted her disease and worked hard to limit the risks by improving their health beyond doctor recommendations.
Upon receiving her diagnosis of breast cancer, she decided to do some research. During her studies of cancer, she learned some frightening truths about the harmful effects of products that most of the human population consumes on a daily basis (one of these items being canola oil, for instance).
The anonymous interviewee also said that as her loved one “started to dive deep into her research, her discoveries prompted a healthy focus towards her life, which spread on to her children.” Tragically, she lost her battle to cancer. However, her children became more conscious of their health by following the example of their mother. While cancer can have an irreversible result for those affected, the outcome can sometimes lead to positive impacts for those who were close to the person.
Karen Braun is a highschool best friend of a member of the SHP community and her mom died of breast cancer when she was just 14 years old. She is now a hospice nurse in New Jersey, meaning that she helps support families before their loved one passes away. While this is a very taxing job, she is very grateful for the amazing nurses who did the same for her family when they went through this.
Sadly, Mrs. Braun’s husband is also currently suffering from cancer, yet she agreed to be interviewed by the Heart Beat in order to spread awareness about her experience with cancer in her personal and professional life. She explained that because of her mom’s passing, she was “put into adulthood abruptly and unexpectedly” and that “it opened up [her] eyes to mortality and make [her] want to make more moments and relationships count”.
Consequently, she often found herself longing for her mother’s wisdom and guidance throughout her adolescence. This longing for her mother left a void within her that she felt could never be filled, until she became a hospice nurse. To her, it felt like, “the more [she] cared for others the more the who in [her] heart was filled.”
One piece of advice Mrs. Braun has for families going through the recovery procedure is not to let themselves go through it alone. There are plenty of support groups and one-on-one therapy opportunities for those who are overwhelmed by the process. She said that people close to her have been emotionally helped to conquer their diseases with a good attitude. She believes that “God has a plan for all of us and all we can do is be the best version of ourselves while on earth.”
Cancer is a very important disease to be aware of in life because it can be an emotional topic for those with the cancer in addition to those they know and love. Also, because of its prevalence, taking precautions in order to decrease one’s chances of getting cancer is very important. Cancer is unfortunately a large part of many lives, so in order to create a strong support system for those in need, it is encouraged that you always reach out to anyone you know to be affected by this disease in order to provide support for them and their family.
Along with that, there are many cancer drives and fundraisers that are easy to find and which can make a big difference in our understanding of this disease. Today, the SHP community asks that everyone takes a moment to consider why we wear pink and some other ways we can contribute to helping the community support those suffering from the effects of breast cancer.