It’s that time of the year again, when pink engulfs everything. This is the time many know and refer to as “pinktober”. Little pink ribbons coat windows and panels, pink T-shirts make their way around, and for a month funds are collected for “breast cancer awareness”. Even though at its core this is a truly wonderful and charitable cause, many corporations have turned a situation of life or death into a robotic, commercial profit opportunity. Breast cancer has become almost glorified while the real struggle is distorted for the people that are not directly in contact with the issue.
For many breast cancer is someone else’s story, but to others it’s a reality; a rude awakening that hits close to home either through a close family member or through a friend. Some students may have a mother, aunt, grandmother, sister, or friend that is either currently battling the issue or has before. They know the daily struggles and obstacles both the patients and their families have to face.
One of Mercer’s own English professors, Dr. Silver, has a primary perspective concerning breast cancer. She was diagnosed when she was pregnant, and has been dealing with the ups and downs of everyday life. She was willing to share some insight with us about the disease and answer a couple of questions.
Question: What do you find to be the biggest misconception among people when they talk about breast cancer?
Dr. Silver: Many see this as a little sickness that is only hard for a while, but then life goes on just as it had before. Pinktober mainly focuses on making cancer “fun” and doesn’t press down on the issue that a third of the women who have breast cancer die from it. These are well-meaning people, but they do not get the details.
Question: What bothers you the most (or what misconception bothers you the most)?
Dr. Silver: Many people have an almost subconscious and conscious belief that cancer is curable, and don’t realize how crippling it really is. Because of this, a lot of money goes toward awareness, and not as much toward research so one day it can really be cured. Many corporations make a lot of money from selling products for awareness month but barely any of the proceeds truly end up being donated for research. For example there are companies that practice fracking for oil and natural gas. Their method is dangerous due to the fact that the air and water becomes polluted, and the chemicals released can and do cause cancer in the communities that surround the extraction areas. Some companies, in order to get away with this simply slap a pink “Breast Cancer Awareness” sticker on the machines and get away with it.
Question: How were you diagnosed and how did you feel about the diagnosis?
Dr. Silver: I was misdiagnosed for three months because I was pregnant at the time. The doctors kept telling me it was just symptoms of my pregnancy. I was also in shock and disbelief because I had had two previous miscarriages, and I had finally been able to have a baby, but the cancer now shadowed all this. I was angry with God.
Question: How did you “come to terms” and get through? What was your support?
Dr. Silver: Having a baby took my mind off of things, so I was not as worried about it as I could have been. I also had long-term goals. I would think about what I would do in five years from now, so it gave me the feeling that I can go on and I have something to look forward to. Also, teaching helped a lot. I was busy and did not have much time to be upset.
My friends were also a great support group. Some of them were going through the same problems as I was, and they were there to provide support. I also did I lot of prayer, yoga and meditation to help clear my mind.
However, my husband was my biggest support. He was there for me from the very beginning, and helped me all the way through the hard times. He would wake up at night to feed the baby so I could rest.
Question: How would you describe your journey so far?
Dr. Silver: Having cancer STINKS! It’s not something I’m happy that I’m given. It’s hard to live knowing that the cancer can explode at any moment and my life can be cut short. I have many friends that have already died from cancer. However, it does give me a purpose in life. I realize that life is short and I appreciate everything and every moment. I don’t let cancer’s tomorrow ruin my today.
Question: What is one thing you want everyone to know, or something that needs more attention?
Dr. Silver: I would like to bring more attention to metastatic breast cancer. It is a very serious, and not enough is done to be able to solve it. Only about 15% of proceeds go toward metastatic breast cancer research. Also, I want people to realize that more and more young women get cancer. It’s not something that can only happen down the road, so younger women should be more aware and checkup often.
I want to thank Dr. Silver for taking time to share her story and personal struggles with me. She gave me a closer and more personal perspective to something that I did not fully understand. Also if you are interested in finding out more about metastatic breast cancer, here are a couple of links with more information: