When most of us think of October, we think of crisp mornings in the Grove, the pumpkin patch on the Square, vibrantly colored leaves, amusing festivals and a plethora of happenings occurring in the area. All of these things bring joy to my day. October is filled with packed days, events and deadlines.
Along with the hustle and bustle of October, I think about Aunt Cathy, Aunt Sherry, Aunt Liz and my grandmother, MeMe. These women come from two different sides of my family; however, they all have one thing in common – breast cancer.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.
I will never forget the day I found out my grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was with her in my mother’s office; we regularly visited my mom at her office after school. This day, however, was not quite as fun. My mother told me that MeMe had cancer; my eyes immediately welled with tears. When a 10-year-old child hears that his grandmother has been diagnosed with cancer, sad thoughts quickly come to mind. It is difficult to say, “we will win this battle,” when you’re 10 years old. I was by my grandmother’s side throughout her battle with breast cancer. I walked with her every day during her recovery; I made sure she was comfortable. I talked to her and kept her company. An event like that causes a child to grow up quickly.
Today, I am happy to report that, along with Aunt Sherry and Aunt Liz, MeMe is a cancer survivor. She has been in remission for years. I thank God daily that she won the battle and is in good health.
That happy ending experienced by MeMe, Aunt Sherry and Aunt Liz is not the same experience of Aunt Cathy. Aunt Cathy was diagnosed with cancer my junior year of high school. She fought hard and long against breast cancer; in fact, the last time I saw her, she seemed to be recovering and in fairly good health. However, she did not win the battle. Breast cancer stole a mother, wife, sister, aunt. Breast cancer does not discriminate based on age, race or gender.
I continue to fight the arduous battle that many have won and many have lost. October is the perfect time to celebrate the loved ones who have won the battle, remember those who are no longer with us and fight back for future generations. Every person on this campus has been touched by cancer in some way; maybe you have a family member who’s had cancer, or a friend or even a member of your community. Cancer, unfortunately, reaches all of us in some form.
While breast cancer, or even cancer in general, is a looming dark cloud, we have the ability to overcome and win. In fact, we have the ability to find a cure. The American Cancer Society, through Relay for Life, has raised millions of dollars for research, advocacy and care giving efforts. Many other admirable non-profit organizations have raised millions of dollars to fight against cancer. Hope is a strong force to be reckoned with, and I believe we have a lot of it. Having participated in Relay for Life since high school, I would urge each of you to visit relayforlife.org/olemiss and sign up to participate in our school’s efforts. You won’t be disappointed that you did; you’ll have a good time while raising money to save lives. I relay for my grandmother and my aunts. I also relay so that future generations won’t have to hear those awful words, “you have cancer.”
Fortunately, our efforts are reflected in government policies. Thanks to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” millions of women now have access to preventative care and treatment to help find breast cancer early. Last year, Medicare provided 6 million free mammograms to women who otherwise probably wouldn’t have gotten one. Forty-seven million women with private insurance can now receive mammograms with no co-pay. Most importantly, in 2014, breast cancer survivors will not be denied coverage or charged more because of “pre-existing conditions.” Whether or not you think the entirety of Obamacare was good or bad, I think it is fairly reasonable to say that the effects above are commendable and moving.
We are making strides in advocacy and cancer research. We must continue to fight for those who can’t. So, use this month as a time of reflection; remember your loved ones who fought the battle. Take action for them. October is the perfect time to start your efforts. During breast cancer awareness month, spread the word that we will not be defeated by this horrific disease.
Adam Blackwell is a public policy leadership junior from Natchez. Follow him on Twitter @AdamBlackwell1.