Let me start by saying that I am all about cancer awareness. Early detection is frequently the difference between life and death. I am 100% certain of this. This post is not intended to discourage anyone from cancer detection. I am just sharing my own personal perspective.
October is breast cancer awareness month. How do I know this? How could I NOT know this? Between the blitz of radio ads, billboards, walks, runs, workshops, T-shirts, ribbons, and bumper stickers it would be impossible not to know about breast cancer awareness. I grabbed an egg out of the refrigerator the other day, and even it was stamped with a pink breast cancer ribbon.
As someone who works in marketing I completely understand why breast cancer gets all the awareness. Between a great spokesperson (Susan Komen), pink ribbons, and a whole society of people that wants to save the tatas it is an easy sell.
But sometimes I think we as a society are so focused on saving the tatas that we forget about the folks that are fighting the less glamorous cancer fight. Let’s talk about the men and women with rectal cancer that not only have to fight cancer, but have to be ashamed to talk about it. Try going to your doctor to talk about those issues. No one is giving them a pink ribbon or stamping an egg about awareness.
Or the folks with tonsil cancer – one of the most painful cancers to experience. Tonsil cancer patients undergo one of the most painful treatments imaginable and it goes on for months. And it’s usually diagnosed from a sore throat that just won’t go away.
Most people don’t even realize my cancer, lymphoma, is a blood cancer. And it’s often diagnosed from a set of symptoms (commonly referred to as “B symptoms”) that seem bizarre – itching, weight-loss, night sweats, and low grade fever. I didn’t really have any of those, but you’d be surprised as the number of people who do and it takes months and months for them to figure out what they have because there is no real awareness. Cancer symptoms can be obvious – a lump in your breast or on your prostate. But they can also be much more subtle – stool changes, frequent urination, tiredness, a wart or a mole, white spots on the tongue, coughing, anemia, headaches, and weight loss. It could be a single symptom or a combination.
I am not writing this to scare you into trying to learn all the symptoms of all the types of cancers. That is a ridiculous notion to anyone who hasn’t been through a cancer diagnosis or had a loved one with cancer. But I am writing this to encourage you to listen to your body and see a professional if you are feeling “off”. If it ends up being nothing, you’ve lost nothing more than a couple of hours of work and a few bucks. You are not so important that your workplace cannot function without you for two hours. But if it is something, you may have gained a lifetime due to early detection.
So yes, save the tatas. But how about we try to save everything else too?