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Debbie Denbrook/Illustration

Debbie Denbrook/Illustration

Survivor: ‘Be an advocate for your own body’

Student Life hosts breast cancer awareness event Oct. 20

October 18, 2017

Every October, an annual international health campaign organized by major breast cancer charities educates women and men on what breast cancer is, its symptoms, how to detect it and treat it. The month’s awareness started in 1985, with the pink ribbon making an appearance as its symbol as early as 1991, according to Wikipedia.

Pierce College’s Student Life is hosting Hope for A Change 11 a.m.-1p.m. Oct. 20 in the Student Life Lobby. Representatives from the local American Cancer Society will distribute educational pamphlets and answer questions about breast cancer, said Student Life member Nate Devish, who is leading the event.

“During the event, Student Life will hand out pink ribbons and other pink swag,” Devish said. Students will also be provided pink craft paper to craft their own messages of hope for survivors whether it be a poem or personal statement.

During the 31 days of October, people gear up to walk, run or bike 3 miles to 3 days to raise money. Companies, including Estee Lauder, American Airlines and Jersey Mike’s Subs, pull out all their development stops to offer their pink products. Even the National Football League gets into the spirit by pinking up its official items such as helmets, chin straps and ref whistles.

An estimated $6 billion is raised annually in the name of breast cancer, with research money funding earlier detection tools, better screening processes and improved treatment options for those diagnosed with breast cancer, according to an article published in Forbes magazine May 16, 2017.

Debbie Ego, Devish’s great-aunt, is one such person. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2012, had surgery that following September, and began 36 rounds of radiation treatment that November. Twelve years later, Ego is living a cancer-free life and she attributes that to early detection.

Ego said she had been having chest pains and went to the doctor to find out what was happening. While the doctor was ordering labs, he told Ego it had been six years since her last mammogram. So, the doctor scheduled one.

When the results came back, she said the doctor saw things that he was concerned about and did another mammogram 6 months later. There was calcification so the doctor did a lumpectomy and found that the cancer had not moved to the lymph nodes, she said. Ego and her family were ecstatic.

The doctor went back in to remove the cancer and during that surgery found a more aggressive type of cancer that was not detectable by mammogram. She said she is fortunate they found the cancer as quickly as they did and everything went the way it was supposed to go.

Ego is now an advocate for early detection. She said she encourages women to get mammograms when the doctors recommend them. If there is cancer in your family history, get it even sooner, she said.

Despite early detection, the World Health Organization is predicting that approximately 320,000 women and 2,400 men in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer — 41,000 of whom will die.

Ego said even though the medical field has come a long way — as a society — breast cancer is still something that isn’t talked about. Ego said, when she was first diagnosed, she felt what she was going through was private because it was her breasts. Then, she said, she realized the need to share it. Ego said it is important for success and recovery when there is a strong support system that can talk through what is happening.

Ego said she feels there is a great deal of stress and fear around breast cancer. When she was diagnosed, it was the “c word.” People were afraid to even say the word, she said, but people don’t have to be afraid of cancer with the medical world catching up and early detection.

Debbie’s advice to young women: “You do have to be realistic. Listen to what your body is telling you. Don’t ignore the sign. Be an advocate for your own body. Fight for the early screenings.”

Why not make your Halloween treat to yourself a mammogram?”

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