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Opinion

What Breast Cancer Awareness Month means to me

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October 26, 2016

For many people, the month of October is just that, October. You may think Halloween, costumes, colorful leaves and cold weather. But for me, for my family and for many more, October isn’t just another month. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and I will always view it as that.

It’s a month to not only raise awareness about the fact that one in eight women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer, but to also praise women for fighting it and remember the ones we have lost because of it.

Unfortunately, I have seen too many of my loved ones have to battle the beast we call breast cancer, and have even seen the worst it can bring. But the women I know who have fought for their lives, and all women out there who have fought or are fighting breast cancer, are the most courageous women I have ever met. Even though they may feel absolutely terrible, they are full of love and life and beauty, and they are so admirable.

To me, breast cancer awareness month is another reminder of the what my family has gone through. Losing a family member to such a terrible monster is the most heartbreaking thing you might ever imagine, and no one can replace what we have lost. I was young when my aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer; I wasn’t sure what it was or how any of it really worked, so my reactions were very dull and emotionless.

She fought such a hard fight, one that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy in any situation. Countless surgeries and doctors appointments crowded her life, and although we knew how much she wanted to give up, we could only hope that her fight would make a difference and she would come out of it with only stories to share.

Nothing could have prepared us for losing her, but unfortunately cancer ran its course and decided to take her life; it had spread throughout her bones and was a painful, mean thing. So this month means that we can think about her a little more often than usual, and remember how bravely she lived while she could.

Although I wish I could go back and change everything that happened, I am also lucky enough to say that I know amazing women who have fought and prevailed against breast cancer’s wrath. And I am happy to say that this month is a month to cherish those who have survived and let them know how loved they truly are.

Last year, one of my mom’s best friends was diagnosed with breast cancer. Fortunately, it was caught at a point where she could have a double mastectomy. I remember seeing her posts on social media and praying that it would be something good instead of something bad.

After her surgery, she was told that she was cancer-free and did not have to go through radiation, a terrible thing that makes any cancer patient feel sick and sad. This woman is such a bright and beautiful person and I am so lucky to know her and to know her story; she has made me appreciate life a whole lot more!

As I have grown up, I have realized how important it is to tell those around you how much you love and appreciate them, and also reflect on how much this disease really affects people.

Both of the women I have mentioned mean so much to me and I am grateful to have both of their souls in my life. Their stories are different, but the impact is the same. They are, or were, strong women who deserve to be recognized every day of the year and not just for one month.

So, what does breast cancer awareness month mean to me? It’s so much more than I could ever explain. It’s the love and happiness that every woman who has ever been diagnosed holds in her heart even though she is in pain, it’s the that families have to watch helplessly as their loved one goes through such a life changing time and it’s being able to love people who have been affected and knowing that they will always be in your heart.

I could never say enough words to describe what this month means to me, but what I can say is this: I hope that every woman who has or ever will have breast cancer can understand that there are millions of people out there to support you and stand by you. Perfect strangers are praying for you every day, including me.

Marissa Jo Chamernick is a student at UW-River Falls.