Who are you running for?

October is “Breast Cancer Awareness Month” and for the second time ever, this Sunday, October 2nd I’m participating in the “CIBC Run for the Cure” as part of Team Solemates. My family and friends have joined together to raise funds to support  research, education and awareness programs for those who are living and dying from breast cancer.

Almost everyone has a story of how cancer has touched their lives and my family is no different. My sister-in-law has been living with breast cancer for 8 years. Last April, after a mastectomy, enduring two years of chemo therapy, and seemingly endless rounds of radiation, she got news that the cancer had returned and is now considered “untreatable”.

This means that any medical treatment she’s received since April has been focussed on extending her life and alleviating her pain. Still, throughout all of this, she remains positive and has had nothing but praise and admiration for her doctors at the BC Cancer Agency. She is extremely grateful for their care and support and for what she sees as a ‘gift of life’ – which allows her to get up everyday and spend quality time with her three-year old daughter. This is the thing she finds most difficult - that she won’t live to raise her beautiful child.

In Canada this year, 23,400 women will likely be diagnosed with breast cancer and 5,100 will likely die from it. 15% of all deaths related to cancer in women are from breast cancer. On average, 14 Canadian women will die of breast cancer every day. These are frightening statistics, but there is hope. According to a Canadian Cancer Society report, the breast cancer death rate is declining significantly and more women are surviving longer. In large part, this is because more women are getting screened and the good news is that in BC, mammograms are free and easy to access.

Another reason survival rates are improving is that treatments are becoming more effective. Researchers are discovering new information on the causes of, and potential treatments (someday maybe even cures) for cancer all the time. We now have a better understanding of the risk factors for breast cancer and other chronic diseases and know that eating a healthy diet, being physically active, maintaining a healthy body weight, avoiding tobacco and limiting alcohol will help to reduce these risks.

Cheryl Crow says that “when you are diagnosed with cancer, everyone around you is as well”. I think this might be true. This Sunday I will be Running for the Cure, “who are you running for?”

Brenda Bedford
September 2011