By Nomali Cele
The inevitable thing with special days that require badges and pins is that they run a risk of becoming redundant. Yes, the campaigns may meet their mandates and, in fact, raise the awareness during the duration of their run. But there’s also a danger that as soon as the badges come off and the colour scheme changes, we forget. A danger that we’re not effecting as much change as we possibly could were the campaigns taken as an ordinary part of life until the social ill is alleviated, or the disease vanquished.
What is Breast Cancer Awareness Month about?
Breast Cancer Awareness month is observed internationally with various educational, awareness and fundraising campaigns all in aid of breast cancer awareness and support for those affected.
Why does Breast Awareness Month matter?
According to CANSA, Breast cancer is the number one cancer affecting South African women. In 2012, 1 in 26 south African women had a lifetime risk of cancer. This statistic alone tells me that awareness is an important part of fighting cancer. After all, the slogans go “early detection saves lives.”
During breast cancer awareness month, and in the months leading up to it, Kaya 959 support the Justine iThemba crusade against breast cancer, which raises funds for different organisations working with those diagnosed with cancer.
It’s easy to be sceptical about the work being done primarily when ayou only hear about a cause during its designated month of “awareness.” I asked a colleague if she felt that there wasn’t anything new or as much being done during and outside breast cancer awareness month and her answer blew my mind.
“Campaigns focus too much on people who might have cancer.” Yes, early detection is important but this colleague made me realise that these messages could be alienating in that they are not telling us what we can do to help those already diagnosed.
What more can we do?
There isn’t any doubt that we should definitely be doing more. Increase visibility of the ways we can help individuals fighting cancer and their families. Emphasising the small ways individuals can assist is also imperative because at a glance, the problem is big and all we can do is already being done.
Ways to help someone going through cancer:
Take their mind off illness – being sick is hard and it takes a toll on every aspect of a person’s life so some time out where they don’t have to think about treatments is restorative
Support their support structure – find out what their family, partner or friends need.
Listen – if someone close to you is going through treatment or has recently been diagnosed, listen.
Donate to organisations serving cancer patients and survivors in your communities – money makes treatments and research and care possible.
So no, Breast Cancer Awareness Month has not become trite. If you are feeling helpless and out of ways to help, start with yourself. Do your self-exam and take it from there. It’s up to us to make breast cancer awareness (and awareness for all the causes that matter to us) a 365-day thing.
See you at the 2017 Justine iThemba Walkathon