Every October, many Americans infuse a little extra pink into their wardrobes to show their support for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This is so important, and we in the breast cancer community are grateful for every pink endeavor that takes place all month long – after all, the association we now make between pink and breast cancer is one reason the disease has gotten so much more attention since Breast Cancer Awareness Month was founded 33 years ago. That attention has resulted in more people getting mammograms and more funding for research and treatments – in other words, many Breast Cancer Treatment Services have saved lives.
But it’s important that we don’t get lost in the sea of pink each October. We have to remember what breast cancer pink really stands for: awareness and action. We must act to both take care of ourselves and advocate for health equity. We must act to help others who are bravely fighting the disease. And we must act to help organizations like Susan G. Komen Chicago meet critical needs in our communities and invest in breakthrough research so that we can realize the vision to live in a world without breast cancer.
Since becoming executive director of Komen Chicago last June, I have been incredibly inspired by the shared passion for preventing breast cancer and improving the lives of those who are fighting. Everywhere I go, I meet women and men who want to take action and be part of this lifesaving work.
This means so much to me, as I have seen the devastating and long-lasting toll that cancer can take on an entire family. In my family, I’ve experienced both the victory of survivorship and the pain from losing my mother, grandmother and cousin to the disease. I also have two cousins currently undergoing treatment. This fight is personal for me.
Did you know that more than 1,000 women in Chicago die each year from breast cancer, and there is a large disparity in the city, with the mortality rate of African-American women being 40 percent higher than Caucasian women? This is an unacceptable truth that Komen Chicago is fighting to change. Over its 21-year history, the organization has distributed more than $17.5 million in grants that help the underserved get breast health services. In addition, Komen Chicago has funded $5.5 million in research to end breast cancer forever.
We are continuing to fight, and, in fact, taking the fight to a whole new level. This means collaborating with a broad spectrum of healthcare partners, to make sure more people have access to quality healthcare options – because we ALL deserve a fighting chance. It also means investing in the promising research we see today, as well as empowering women by shining a light on the importance of early detection.
You can join us in this important work. And there’s no better time to get started than Breast Cancer Awareness Month – or Breast Cancer ACTION Month as we call it here at Komen Chicago! Here are some important actions you can take this October:
- Make your own health a priority; GET YOUR ANNUAL MAMMOGRAM! People who develop breast cancer will have a much greater chance of survival if it is detected early. Today’s screening tests can find the disease before it causes any warning signs or symptoms, which means patients can often get treated before it spreads and have a much better outcome. It’s also important to regularly get a medical checkup and have a clinical breast exam performed by a healthcare provider. We all get busy, and women often put their family’s health and wellness ahead of their own. But we must carve out time to take care of ourselves! The signs of breast cancer are not the same for all women. It’s important to know how your breasts normally look and feel. If you notice a change, see a doctor.
- If you are being treated for breast cancer or have concerns about the disease (for yourself or someone you love), check out the resources and education at KomenChicago.org. You can also call us at 773-444-0061.
- If you know someone who is being treated for breast cancer, make sure they’re aware of the resources and information available through Komen Chicago. And reach out to help if you can – whether it’s a meal, a ride or a friendly conversation, the support that patients receive from their family and friends can make all the difference.
- Get involved in the fight against breast cancer by helping Komen Chicago. If you’re a runner or cyclist, join us at Race for the Cure or Ride for the Cure. You can also volunteer your time, or donate to this important cause.
- And, finally, consider joining us at our biggest party of the year – the Greatest Show Under the Big Pink Top Gala on Saturday, Oct. 27, at Cinespace Chicago Film Studios. We’re going ALL OUT for Breast Cancer Awareness Month and our 21st birthday this year, with a vintage circus theme (with a Komen pink twist, of course). Guests will be captivated by star-studded entertainment and exceptional circus acts and attractions, including high-flying trapeze artists, jugglers and stilt walkers . Elaborate food stations will be provided by some premier Chicago restaurants, including a fiery dessert presentation by STK. This is truly a Chicago Gala unlike any other, a celebration that pays tribute to the many brave people who have fought or are fighting breast cancer, while raising money to enable Komen Chicago’s lifesaving and life-changing work. Some tickets are still available. Please get yours today. I’d love to see you there!