Library Columns Meaghan MacPherson

PINKtober raises breast cancer awareness

LL_Photo_Meaghan-767x1024In recent years, many new trends have been introduced to bring awareness to different causes. Last year’s Ice Bucket Challenge raised millions of dollars for ALS research, No-Shave November will bring awareness to prostate cancer next month, and (Project)RED has raised millions for AIDS research since its founding in 2006. There is one cause, however, that brings on a deluge of awareness this time of year. October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.

It’s kind of hard to miss all the pink ribbons and merchandise each year to fundraise for breast cancer research. Many groups and organizations, like Susan G. Komen, also host walks, Color Runs, and yoga nights. Women’s clinics offer free mammograms and screenings. And anything and everything from our hair to the White House gets colored pink.

Breast cancer affects everyone. It is the most common cancer among American women, except for skin cancers. 1 in 8 women in the United States will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. It affects men as well. 1 in 1000 men will also develop breast cancer in his lifetime. We all have a family member, friend, coworker, or person in our life who has battled the disease or knows someone who has. Even if no one we’ve known directly has been affected, we see it in our media time and time again. Angelina Jolie brought attention to the disease when she had a preemptive double mastectomy to reduce her risk. Good Morning America hosts Robin Roberts and Joan Lunden have been very open about their ongoing battles with the disease. Only last month, the world lost best-selling author Jackie Collins in her battle with breast cancer.

There is a quote from Harry Potter that I always turn to when things seem bleak. “Happiness can be found in the darkest of times if one only remembers to turn on the light.” There is a very important reason the color pink represents Breast Cancer Awareness month. Besides being a color that socially defines femininity, in color psychology, pink is a sign of hope. Pink means universal love of self and others, unity, nurturing, and empathy. Pink inspires the possibility of a positive outcome.

Much optimism can be gained from the stories women share about their battles with cancer. The book “Portraits of Hope” by Marcia Stevens Sherrill compiles 52 inspirational stories of strength from women and men diagnosed with breast cancer. In her newly released book “Had I Known,” former Good Morning America host Joan Lunden speaks candidly about her battle, her determination to learn about the disease and teach others about it, and the effect the journey has had on her life thus far. Her former co-hosts Robin Roberts and Amy Robach also discussed their diagnoses and treatments in books titled “Everybody’s Got Something” and “Better,” respectively.

Writer Gail Konop Baker found humor in her diagnosis and detailed her juggle with midlife, motherhood, and support groups in the book “Cancer is a Bitch, or I’d Rather Be Having a Midlife Crisis.”

As well as hope and awareness, October is also a time to offer support to those who have survived or are undergoing treatment for breast cancer. Support could come through purchasing pink products, donating to the National Breast Cancer Foundation or American Cancer Society, participating in the Susan G. Komen Run for Life or, locally, the Pink Army Strut, or supporting a local cancer patient by volunteering to bring them to treatment or to buy groceries, etc. Every little bit helps.

For more public health information on breast cancer and other stories from breast cancer survivors, you can visit the 362.196 section of your local library. For breast cancer support and treatment guides such as “The Breast Cancer Companion: a guide for the newly diagnosed” by Nancy Sokolowski, visit the section 616.99.

Don’t forget to check out the Pink Army Strut event in Downtown Sebring this Saturday, October 24, at 4:00 PM to support the Florida Hospital Heartland Mammography Fund. The Pink Army Awareness Campaign culminates in the “Girls Night Out” event featuring free giveaways, live music, mocktails, and the “Get your Pink on” costume contest to win prizes.

Here’s to October and supporting breast cancer awareness. The life you save may be your own.