We all know by now (or at least we should) that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM). A month marked across countries all over the world to help increase attention and awareness of the disease. It is a month that reflects an international drive by public and private healthcare structures to raise awareness of this debilitating disease across all races and class structures.
Thanks to there being a dedicated month where we talk about breast cancer in depth, most of us are aware of what breast cancer is, recommended early detection strategies, diagnosis, treatment options, long-term programs and we are aware of the research organizations doing their best to find a way to kick this cancer to the curb.
One thing that does not get enough attention though is the stigma. We all know about HIV stigma by now for example, because it has been heavily delved into and discussed at length. But you hardly ever hear about breast cancer stigma and to be honest with you I didn’t realize there was any stigma until I sat down to actively read about this topic. A breast cancer diagnosis is one of the most frightening experiences a woman can get and I cannot imagine having to carry the stigma around after such a life-changing discovery.
There are many misconceptions that exist around breast cancer and there is something of a community taboo surrounding the disease, especially in some South African communities. Some women have reportedly been blamed for “bringing it upon themselves” and some women have felt they would be shunned by the community if their diagnosis was known. Others have said they received no support at all from their husbands after being diagnosed and fear abandonment.
It makes me feel so sad and aggravated (a lot more than I shall admit in this post otherwise it will turn into a rant), that women have had to go through such on top of everything else that comes with a breast cancer diagnosis. That is why I partnered up with Reach for Recovery’s Ditto Project to bring breast cancer discussions to the forefront and help start the dialogue.
The aim of Reach for Recovery is to provide emotional care and practical support to breast cancer patients and their families. Reach for Recovery aims to help women restore their self-confidence via their Ditto Project which gives them access to quality silicone prostheses which they might otherwise be unable to afford. Through local branches of Reach for Recovery, volunteers (who mostly consist of breast cancer survivors themselves) help to ensure the women are fitted correctly and receive the best shape and size suited to their body in order to simulate their natural breasts.
Dr Justus Apffelstaedt, a specialist surgeon based in Cape Town who is an avid supporter of The Ditto Project said the following, “Reach for Recovery wants to help women feel confident again after a traumatic diagnosis and surgery. We believe that breast prosthesis can be an important step in her recovery, especially to those women from communities where there is still a stigma attached to a cancer diagnosis”.
How beautiful is that? We all know the world has not always been kind to women (a topic for another day), but hearing about such endeavors that are actively trying to make women’s lives better especially after such trauma truly warms my heart. Giving a woman her confidence back after such a journey is truly giving her her power back!
But it shouldn’t just end there though. You do not have to have a medical degree or be volunteering for an NPO in order to make a difference. I truly believe a whole lot of the violence and stigma we see manifesting in the world is as a result of pure ignorance and silent tongues.
What better way to support our breast cancer survivors out there than to have them walk out of hospital rooms, therapy sessions, and even their own homes, than by us showing up with open arms and open minds ready to show them they are not alone and ready to show them just how much we still love them? Diagnosis and all.
I truly believe that encouraging women to talk about breast cancer can assist in reducing the stigma around it. Heck, I believe that anyone talking about breast cancer can help reduce the stigma around it. So I implore you to do just that. TALK!
Talk about it on your Instagram stories, Snapchat, Twitter timeline, Facebook, WhatsApp, MXit, LinkedIn, Tinder, BBM, My Space. Talk about it with your mother next time you see her, your aunt, grandmother, does your uncle know anything about breast cancer? My point is, start a dialogue. I have been so shocked at times by the words that have come out of people’s mouths when they have spoken to me about xenophobia, homophobia, HIV, cancer, a magnitude of topics (I mean, you knowww I love tackling difficult topics any day). And you would (or maybe not) be shocked by how much stigma, hate and misunderstanding lies in ignorance and silent tongues.
We owe it to our fellow females to open up the dialogue and create a world where NO ONE has to face ignorant stigma on top of such a heavy diagnosis. We owe it to our fellow females to listen up this coming BCAM and absorb as much knowledge as we can in order to spread the word about this disease. We owe it to our fellow females to not add to the list of people who will stigmatize them but rather add to the list of women who will support them and provide them with resources, kindness, understanding, alliance.
To find out more information to help you spread the word this Breast Cancer Awareness Month (and beyond), please visit the links below. If you would like to be part of the initiative and donate, please visit the following site here.