Facts, Health, Hope & The Magnificence of Fortitude

Facts, Health, Hope & The Magnificence of Fortitude

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October is Breast Cancer awareness month. As a medical doctor, bent over a microscope, analyzing tissue samples, tumor biopsies and identifying points of concern for clarity in breast cancer diagnosis, I have watched this disease from its earliest stages. I have seen it whisper its presence in cells and demand to be seen in tumors – I have watched it quietly spread through tissues – insidious and unknown. Or race with the heat of fire, wild and all-consuming. I have also seen it disappear.

The thing about cancer – as with any potentially terminal illness – is that it makes us feel uncomfortable. Looking at it. Facing it. Holding eye contact with a person who has it. My belief is that we fear to look at it because it reminds us that we are fragile. That our health can be taken, quietly or quickly, from us. Sometimes, without us even knowing. Without even asking us how we feel about it, or if it’s okay. The audacity of cancer is what leaves us disconcerted.

And rightfully so.

We fear what we cannot control.

But what about the things that we can?

If the body is designed to heal and functions best in a healthy state – what power do we have in the spaces where cancer does not exist, to influence whether or not it appears? It is a fact that exercise reduces breast cancer risk for women of all body types – the American Cancer Society recommends 150 minutes of moderate activity per week to manage risk…but even 30 minutes per week has been found to make a difference. Exercise is also beneficial to breast cancer survivors. Statistically, only a third of survivors meet recommended activity levels.

Where is your power?

Where lies our ability to engage with this illness instead of look away? To look into its steely eye and stare right back? What are the possibilities? Or is there a way to engage with our health and the potential of this disease to be defeated, or understood on a road to better health?

We do not have all of the answers yet. But we do have potential. Hope shines through the cracks – in the hands and minds of all the research scientists, medical doctors, specialists; in the little feet of children walking to raise money for cancer research, in the dads that carry those tired children on their shoulders, and the women who walk arm in arm or run and sweat, using every last ounce of strength to face this disease or cross a finish line. Hope shines in the friends and the army of love that tackles breast cancer every minute of every day, globally.

Eight out of ten lumps in the breast are found by women themselves, through self-examination. Eight out of ten. Power. Death rates from breast cancer have been in decline since the early 90’s, with women younger than 50 years of age, showing the largest improvement. Power. More women are surviving breast cancer than ever before. Medical breakthroughs, treatment and most importantly changes in lifestyle have emerged as inspirationally powerful weapons.

And while there are times when the battle for life in the cancer-ill body, is a world war, when radiation and chemotherapy, every ounce of the human spirit is screaming against the disease, NO! Sometimes cancer wins. It breaks our hearts. Pulls us apart and brings us together.

The realities surrounding breast cancer are not just in the tissue cells themselves. They are in the diagnosis and the pain, the wringing and quiet gripping of hands, in tear soaked faces and in witnessing the humbling magnificence of those standing up to the battle.

And so this October, this Breast Cancer Awareness Month, let us think about the places where our power lies (if you want to know more about how to find out where that might be, I am here), about hope shining through from behind even the darkest moments, and the potential for health amongst the facts. And to all of those facing this battle, who continue to draw from the sea of fortitude – You are magnificent.