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Got Pink?

Monday, October 14, 2013
Got Pink? It's Breast Cancer Awareness Month

My heart breaks every time I hear someone—family member from close friends or relatives, mostly, or someone I know, or someone else—is clinically diagnosed with cancer, especially breast cancer. When I say my heart breaks, my heart cries. From the stories I have been told, breast cancer grows and spreads quickly within months, or even weeks. From the very deepest of me, I encourage you, my readers, to educate yourself more about the early detection and going beyond it. Cancer could turn your life upside down, let’s prevent life-full-of-hard-struggle earlier.

1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime – NationalBreastCancer.Org

The Awareness and Pink Ribbon

October is known for breast cancer awareness month when mostly non-profit organizations give breast checkup for women in needs, educate through campaigns, help women who can’t afford screening, and do fundraising. Additionally, it’s a month of reminder that every woman has to do breast self exam once in a month to detect if there is any existence of lump, unknown swelling or shrinkage. It is all started by Janielle Hail, a woman who is diagnosed in 1980 and survives. Since then, she is committed to help other women worldwide for early detection so she establishes National Breast Cancer Foundation since 1991.

Breast cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the breast. The damaged cells can invade surrounding tissue, but with early detection and treatment, most people continue a normal life. – NBCF

I love the idea of pink ribbon. Pink ribbon is a symbol of unending hope, unity, and courage.. It is first introduced by Susan when she gives out pink ribbon to breast cancer survivors in a race in 1991. The next year the symbol is adopted by NBAF.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women worldwide, claiming the lives of hundreds of thousands of women each year and affecting countries at all levels of modernization. – World Health Organization

A Downfall

I have heard about cancer in the past year like a glimpse. Like something that is just far away from me. Until a year ago my friend’s, Sophia’s, aunt is diagnosed with breast cancer around August 2012. I have become more aware and known that cancer does exist and it could be anyone, including myself.

It is all started from a small lump as big as thumb. Days after, it swells and becomes red. Her child accidentally kicks her breast. Her nipple discharges blood or clear liquid. Weeks later after being diagnosed, it has reached stage 3. When moved to Singapore, she has reached stage 4. The cancer spreads and grows incredibly fast.

During recovery, her aunt takes chemotherapy and other treatments, resulting in hair loss. Bald. Moreover, since the laser treatment radiates, it also kills the good cells. Thus, her body is getting weaker and weaker. She can only rest on bed and eat very limited variance of foods.

I remember her mom as a nurse, helps her sister every day in that little apartment in West Jakarta. I only visit them once when I am about to hang out with my friend in Central Park. I saw her aunt laying on her bed. Just there, saying hi to me. I can smell something smelly in that place. Her mom says it may be resulted from the blood and pus pouring out from her breast, that she has to change gauze band every time. My friend says the infection creates crust inside so that her mom has to clean it up. That time, it is so painful for the whole family. For her mom. For her too. For me, seeing my own closest friend struggling too, is hard.

Doctors in either Indonesia or Singapore have given up treating her, saying there is no other way to treat the cancer. Then her aunt is taken to hospital for cancer treatment in Guangzhou, China. But then, they have given up as well. The cancer has spread to lungs too, and infected inner organs of hers. It is really hard. They have to stay in the hospital for days too, without any progress. The chance to live is near zero.

In late February, after they have gone back from China to Indonesia, my friend tells me that her aunt has rested in piece.

A Survivor

Since that day, I become so alerted every time I listen to any cancer story. Sophia’s story is just one of many other stories that I have heard. Some go back home to heaven earlier, some still struggle, and some survive. There are two breast cancer survivors that I know in the past year. One is Grace Kusno, a friend of my aunt, the other is Yanti Radjagukguk, a mom of a pastor in my church. Both of their stories are so inspiring I could write about them in a long post. But to cut the story short, both of them have the same values: courage, faith, and hope. Mrs. Yanti is one strong woman I have heard. Her husband is struggling with stroke while she is fighting for her breast cancer. But God plans something else, He took away her husband’s life. With much courage, strength, faith, and hope, she fights and gets into so many treatments. There’s a light at the end of a tunnel. She survives. Read her full story here.

I don’t really remember of Grace Kusno’s story but I remember the feeling when I listen to her story when I visit Singapore last time. She is a very warm person, looks so healthy, energetic, and far from a breast cancer survivor. She tells me that we, women, have to do self breast exam until the armpit area,

Breast Self-Exam

This material below is taken from NationalBreastCancer.Org. Both images and texts.

Read the Indonesian version here.

Breast Self Exam
Breast Self Exam

1. In the shower. Using the pads of your fingers, move around your entire breast in a circular pattern moving from the outside to the center, checking the entire breast and armpit area. Check both breasts each month feeling for any lump, thickening, or hardened knot. Notice any changes and get lumps evaluated by your healthcare provider.

2. In front of mirror. Visually inspect your breasts with your arms at your sides. Next, raise your arms high overhead.

Look for any changes in the contour, any swelling, or dimpling of the skin, or changes in the nipples. Next, rest your palms on your hips and press firmly to flex your chest muscles. Left and right breasts will not exactly match—few women’s breasts do, so look for any dimpling, puckering, or changes, particularly on one side.

3. Lying Down. When lying down, the breast tissue spreads out evenly along the chest wall. Place a pillow under your right shoulder and your right arm behind your head. Using your left hand, move the pads of your fingers around your right breast gently in small circular motions covering the entire breast area and armpit.

Use light, medium, and firm pressure. Squeeze the nipple; check for discharge and lumps. Repeat these steps for your left breast

Final Note

Do breast self exam once a month, if you find any lump, consult doctor immediately. Most hospitals have this service. They usually have mammography checkup package as well. Early detection helps us from years of struggle.

There are so many other stories like this out there. Maybe you know a friend, a family member, or a relative that has passed away because of cancer. Or you are still struggling. I can feel you. Surround yourself with supporting family and friends. Look for support groups for caregivers. Keep praying. I am also praying for each of you to reach that light soon. And most importantly, for who is struggling with cancer, to have the passion to live. That unending hope. Have faith.

Educate yourself more:

Early Detection Plan ♥ National Breast Cancer Foundation ♥ Yayasan Kanker Indonesia Kanker Payudara ♥

Got Pink? It's Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Got Pink? It's Breast Cancer Awareness Month

 

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