Supporting Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Breast Cancer Awareness Month is celebrated annually in October and is also known as ‘Pink October.’
It’s been well over a year since my last blog post. A lot has been happening, a mix of highs and lows, but in general, I am sitting in a place of gratitude.
As someone who has lived with cancer and undergone various treatments, I thought I would use the occasion this month to put a spotlight on this issue.
If you are concerned about facing cancer or know somebody who might be facing or is concerned about cancer, here are three things that have guided me that I hope will be useful to you too.
1. Be in touch with your own body.
With the busy lives we all lead, it is easy to overlook changes. But we must be mindful of the changes in us, especially those which require further investigation. Trust your instincts. It is easy to lapse into denial, push an issue into the ‘too hard’ pile or postpone it.
Early detection can make a tremendous difference.
2. Get support and give support.
Cancer is prevalent, and chances are you know someone who has faced or is currently dealing with cancer.
Despite how common these diagnoses are, it is a different experience when it happens to you.
If you are facing cancer, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask for help when needed. People around you may feel unsure about what to do or say, so your asking for help allows them to be there for you in a meaningful way.
Speaking openly about your experience helps others understand what you are going through.
If you know someone facing cancer, reach out. They may not need your help immediately, but knowing you’re there for them is reassuring.
Be patient and kind. Everyone goes through and processes things in unique ways we may not always fully understand.
3. Get checked.
This October, numerous activities and resources are made available, specifically for breast cancer.
Screening options, facilities and costs may differ from one country to another, but hopefully, you can access some form of help and support if needed.
As a Malaysian based in Canberra, Australia, here is what I know.
The National Cancer Society of Malaysia (NCSM) is offering free mammogram screenings.
A mammogram screening is one of the most effective ways to detect breast cancer. Although the procedure can be slightly uncomfortable, it is a quick process.
Sometimes, the screening may also involve an ultrasound scan of the breasts. This is painless and a relatively quick procedure.
If you are a citizen or permanent resident, you may be able to access free mammogram screenings.
BreastScreen Australia is the national breast cancer screening program. Every state and territory operates a BreastScreen Australia service and invites women aged between 50 and 74 years to have a mammogram every two years. You can still have a free mammogram if you’re aged between 40 and 49 years, or 75 years and over. See a list of breast cancer screening contacts.
When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018, I was terrified, anxious and uncertain. I had so much to process and had to make complex decisions in a very short time, often struggling with medical jargon and the brevity of discussions in the doctor’s office.
Here are a few things I did that helped me through a very difficult time:
- Educating myself: I tried to understand my medical situation as thoroughly as possible, utilising any available tools and resources.
- Asking the right questions: I identified essential questions and actively sought the information I needed.
- Temporal perspective: I reminded myself that this was a moment in time and that it would eventually pass.
- Focus on controllables: I concentrated on aspects of my life that I could manage and control, such as my family, work and time.
- Support network: I had the unwavering support of my family and friends, who stood by my side
- I shone a light on the issue, see my post, We rise by lifting others.
My aim in sharing this is to encourage anyone with concerns about their health or body to take action, to not set it aside or ignore it. Nothing works if you do not have good health.
Get in tune. Take a moment to connect with yourself and be mindful of what your body is telling you. Be brave and take the necessary steps to address whatever comes next, no matter what it may be.
Get checked. Do not delay, take action sooner rather than later. Early detection can make a significant difference.
Get support. Speak up and share your story. Allow yourself to be supported in your journey.