October is a month known for sweaters, pumpkins and fall leaves. It is also Breast Cancer Awareness month, a time when we rally around survivors, family, friends and remember those who lost their battle to the most common form of female cancer. So what do we need to be aware of?
Google the word "mindful" and you’ll find about 24,900,000 entries. Google the word "mindfulness" and there are around 13,600,000 entries. Ever wonder how these ancient, distant, and diverse Asian practices known as mindfulness have made their way into our living rooms today? Quite simply it is thanks to some noteworthy people who clocked hours, days, weeks and years on a meditation cushion. They saw something important and then they showed it to us.
The [UMASS] Stress Reduction Clinic was founded in 1979 by Dr. Kabat-Zinn. Since its inception, more than 18,000 people have completed the eight-week MBSR program. The MBSR stress reduction program continues to expand its influence worldwide with hundreds of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) clinics and freestanding programs attracting tens of thousands of people on five continents.
It‘s challenging to be a Breath Cancer survivor during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. What‘s Breath Cancer? It‘s the cancer that attacks the organ behind the breast, the organ we cannot live without.
Its proper name is Lung Cancer. But I prefer to call it Breath Cancer, because it literally and permanently takes the breath from a jumbo jet-full of people every day.
I bet you‘re wondering if I smoked. Did you know that up to 20% of people with Breath Cancer never smoked, 60% don‘t currently smoke, and most of us wince at the question?
People don‘t ask Breast Cancer survivors whether they‘re overweight or drank wine (raises the risk), exercised (lowers risk), or got regular mammograms. Is this partly because Breast Cancer is sexualized? As the new "Save the Boobs" PSA shows, breasts are beautiful. And the thought of losing them? Terrifying. No blame, no shame to Breast Cancer.
Not so with Breath Cancer. Although it‘s usually caused by smoking — which like overeating, is a lifestyle choice — most fighting the disease don‘t smoke. But that shouldn‘t matter anyway. Cancer is cancer. I lost one friend to Breast, another to Colon, another to Breath Cancer. Did one deserve to live more than another?
It‘s challenging to be a Breath Cancer survivor during October because everyone cares so vocally about Breast Cancer. And although Breath Cancer kills twice as many women, during Lung Cancer Awareness Month (November), you won‘t see invisible ribbons (the non-color of Breath Cancer) used to hawk everything from tissues to tampons.
Stigma has kept Breath Cancer deplorably underfunded. And that‘s why only 15% of us live longer than five years. That‘s unfair. So please. Care.
And by the way, yes, I smoked, but quit almost 20 years before my diagnosis. Regardless, don‘t I deserve to live?
Lori Hope is the author of the top-rated cancer support book, Help Me Live: 20 things people with cancer want you to know, and speaks and blogs about how to help people facing cancer and other life challenges. For more information, see LoriHope.com, or read her interview with Time, "How to talk to a friend with breast cancer".
This originally appeared as a guest blog post on Beliefnet’s Fresh Living blog. Read Lori’s other powerful cancer features on Beliefnet:
Every year, February sweeps the states with love. Chocolate, flowers, diamonds – who can ask for a more fabulous month? But February is also National Cancer Prevention Month and doll, there’s no better way to show yourself love than by taking care of your own body.
As U.S. Public Diplomacy Envoy, and President and Visionary of the Cancer Schmancer Movement, I have made it my life’s mission to empower women with the education they need to prevent and diagnose cancer in its earliest stages. We want women to know the early warning “whispers” (as I call them) that are so subtle they are often ignored until it’s too late, or are misdiagnosed for benign illnesses. Most American women are the caregivers for their children, their spouse, and their elders. And when you put your family’s health before your own, you’re really putting them last because you’re useless to them when you’re six feet under!
Nearly one-third of all cancers are preventable, so you can reduce your risk for cancer by changing your lifestyle. Play an active role in National Cancer Prevention Month, and your own health by following these tips:
Live Healthy – Exercising and eating right is important in not only preventing cancer, but keeping your body in shape for a long, healthy life. Control your weight, fill your plate with fruits and veggies and begin an exercise routine. Read the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ guidelines for physical education. Girls, let’s get up and get active!
Quit smoking – Smoking damages almost every organ in the body and accounts for nearly 30% of all cancer deaths. Do your lungs a favor and never light up – they are doing a good job for you, so be a good mama and take care of them.
Limit Sun Exposure – Constant exposure to the sun for that “gorgeous” tan is NOT worth increasing your risk for cancer. Tans will fade but the damage to your skin won’t! We have to remember that skin in a living organ and it is just as important to take care of it just as we do our lungs, heart, and bones. Always wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15, wear clothing that protects your skin when you are out in the sun, and avoid tanning beds!
Get screened – Regular screening and self-exams play a huge role in early detection of cancer. This includes getting the HPV vaccine and yearly PAP tests for cervical and vaginal cancer, fecal occult blood tests for colon and rectum cancer, and yearly mammograms for breast cancer. Don’t forget your monthly self- breast examinations.
Beware of the environment – Our bodies are exposed to chemicals everyday, from our homes to our workplace. Think organic, choose greener cleaning supplies, and purchase safe personal products. Remember, what we put on our bodies is just as important as what we put in so read up on what the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is doing to protect the health of consumers like you and I.
Listen to your body – Nobody knows your body better than you. If you feel something is imbalanced, see your physician immediately and do not sweep any symptoms under the rug. Always bring a list of questions with you to your appointments and never feel bad about getting a second opinion. It isn’t personal – it’s your life!