Sophisticated Scribbles: Invincible No More



Though I’ve always been aware of the growing prevalence of breast cancer among women, it remained one of those health issues I greatly sympathized with, but never believed would affect me. After all, I had no family history of the disease or even known anyone who had suffered from breast cancer. Of course I’d seen the flyers advocating for self-breast exams, bought products with the signature pink ribbon, and heard of inspiring survivors coming out of long battles with breast cancer to lead a new campaign for increased awareness and fundraising. I donated occasionally. I cried during the emotional interviews with survivors. I entertained the thought that maybe I should get a mammogram when I’m much older. But I didn’t understand.

That was until a few weeks ago when I discovered a 27-year-old family friend recently underwent a double mastectomy, and again when my brother’s girlfriend decided to be tested for the breast cancer gene after her sister’s results were positive. All while I had complained about my minor thyroid condition. Suddenly breast cancer was too close for comfort. It was no longer the distant disease that I observed from the safety of my ivory tower. As Breast Cancer Awareness Month comes to a close, I’ve come to realize something about my health that I believe is important for all girls to be aware of: I’m not invincible.

I know how cliché it sounds when people say how they used to take their health for granted…yadda yadda yadda. Believe me I know. But in all honesty it’s not that I didn’t acknowledge how important being in good health was, it’s that I never actually believed I was touchable. It’s pretty jarring when you recognize that you’re just as vulnerable. It forces you to look at the issue from an entirely new lens.

This isn’t to say that as women we need to see ourselves as ticking time bombs, hospital patients waiting to happen. Rather it stresses how vital it is that we are well informed and educated about symptoms and treatment of breast cancer, our health history, rights as patients, and services available. We need to become active proponents of our health. It also calls us to evaluate how we as a culture view breast cancer. Do patients undergo reconstructive surgery as part of their recovery or because our society has a culturally constructed notion of normal that makes women feel they have to? Do companies exploit the cultural soft spot for breast cancer through pinkwashing their products? Maybe we don’t have all the answers, but taking the step to educate ourselves about these types of questions and their implications is key to fully understanding how breast cancer affects our communities. 

So, I’m taking off the rose colored glasses, getting a new lease on life per se, and finally stepping down from the ivory tower because breast cancer is real, and it’s not something I need to be afraid of, but something I need to be prepared to impact my life.

Quote of the Week: “Everyone has ocean's to fly, if they have the heart to do it. Is it reckless? Maybe. But what do dreams know of boundaries?” – Amelia Earhart