Cancer never sleeps

October is a month of fleeting change, as we shift gears into winter. But not everything in October should be swept away with the falling leaves.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. It often comes as a flurry of fundraisers, events and pink ribbons. But come November, breast cancer doesn’t care that our ribbons are packed away. Cancer doesn’t rest; neither should we.

There’s much to be proud of – deaths due to breast cancer have been on the decline since 1986, and today the 5-year breast cancer survival rate in Canada is 88 per cent. That means the majority of women diagnosed with breast cancer live at least five years after their diagnosis.

But the story left out of those statistics is what those five years can look like. They don’t tell about the emotional, physical and financial toll of cancer. Treatments save lives, but for a patient, they often mean lost income, lost energy, and lost time with loved ones. Survivors are often scarred, both physically and emotionally, from the whirlwind of appointments, scans and therapies.

Cancer consumes family life. It forms the backdrop of every gathering, works into every conversation, and factors into every decision.

If treatment is successful, there is always fear that the Cancer will come back. And when it’s not, there’s the life-long heartache, as we mourn our lost mothers, sisters, wives and friends. Every day, 14 Canadian women die of breast cancer.

There’s great work being done, nationally and locally, in the fight against breast cancer. Chantelle Spuzak recently opened her aesthetics studio to a fully booked fundraising event. The Thunder Bay Regional Health Centre is donating half of its proceeds from the October 50/50 draw to breast cancer care. Fundraisers like these play such an important part in raising awareness and funds, and keeping the odds moving in the right direction.

But it’s what we do the rest of the year that can make the biggest difference, and that’s to encourage the women we love to keep up on their cancer screenings. Until there’s a cure, early detection is still considered our best weapon against breast cancer.

We’re lucky to have a hospital equipped with a mammogram and great staff right here at home. All women between the ages of 50-74 can book a mammogram without a doctor’s referral, by calling 274-4808. Women at a higher risk can start even earlier.

As winter and holiday gatherings begin, and we draw our family and friends in close, remind the women you love to get tested. Don’t let breast cancer awareness end with October.

Megan Walchuk