To be frank, and at the risk of being cliché, Breast Cancer Awareness Month is the best of times and the worst of times. People can feel empowered and supported with an outburst of community engagement such as walks, runs, and even pink ribbons plastered on everything from public transportation to egg cartons at the grocery store! However, there are others who would rather hibernate for the next 31 days and reemerge November 1, once the outpour of pink has dissipated.
At the height of community discourse on diversity and inclusion, how does that translate into the important work taking place within our breast cancer network? Let's be cognizant of the language we use this month; how we can support the multitude of emotions that October may trigger; and to take that extra step in compassion and empathy.
Some people love pink and all that the ribbon represents. For others, it can feel quite marginalizing. Let's not only celebrate those who are SURVIVING, day in and day out, but let us remember all of our friends, and members of our vaunted breast cancer community that we have lost to this hideous disease. If you would like to honor a friend or a loved one who has passed to MBC by sharing their story in remembrance, please consider submitting an article and photos that we can honor and acknowledge at SBC! Please send submissions to Desiree at email@example.com.
Below is a survival list for Breast Cancer Awareness Month:
-Sparkly pink survivor sashes can certainly be a badge of honor, but let's remember that not everyone identifies with being a "survivor".
-Let's follow the money when making donations in the name of Breast Cancer Awareness, make sure you know how your money is being spent.
-Let's remember that if we start with finding a cure for metastatic disease, which is a terminal illness and takes lives, everyone else with earlier stage breast cancer will benefit.
-Let's check in on each other.
-Let's share the diversity we enjoy within our breast cancer communities.
-Let's unite. Let's partner. Let's take Awareness and strive for Action and Advocacy.
Advocating for yourself
It is important to advocate for yourself at every step of your diagnosis: whether you want a second opinion of a symptom you think could be breast cancer, or want to get more information about all of the available treatment options. Remember, you are your own best advocate and need to speak up when something doesn’t feel right or you want to make better informed decisions. Your doctors and care team all want what's best for you. At the end of the day, however, it’s your body and you will feel more empowered.
Connect with others in the breast cancer community
Consider participating in a number of events and programs being offered this month through our organization. October for SBC is business as usual with a few additional bells and whistles. Join us for our Thursday Night Thrivers meetups, attend one of our Movement Monday sessions or our upcoming Writing as Healing workshop on October 11. Cozy up with a book and join us for our Breast Cancer Book Club meeting on Sunday where we pick readings that have absolutely nothing to do with cancer! If you are looking for some of those bells and whistles events, head to Chicago where we are hosting two fundraisers: a burlesque show and water color painting workshop! Check out everything that is happening this month here!
One of the most powerful ways to navigate BCA Month is to give voice to your experience. This can be done through social media, posting on twitter, or even being a guest on a podcast. You may find that writing about your experience is the perfect outlet for letting the world know what BCA month means to you, whether or not you love this month! We've developed a list of 20 writing prompts and if you are interested, we'd encourage you to share with our community!
Read on for more from survivors and healthcare professionals explaining why self-advocacy is so necessary, their experiences advocating for themselves, and tips on how you can do the same.
Podcast Episode #72 How To Self-Advocate Q & A with Liz Mover
How to self advocate is a topic that comes up often among those diagnosed with breast cancer. We are always telling each other that we have to advocate for ourselves, but really, what does that mean? How can we do it, what are the tools we need, and why are we so concerned about hurting our oncologists' feelings? Listen Now.
Breast Cancer Stories: A Call For Self-Advocacy
"I cannot stress the importance of getting a second opinion! ... My first breast surgeon gave me the news that I had cancer and the choice to keep my “healthy” breast. They didn’t explain my condition or their plan of action the way that I expected. In fact, the 8 minutes I sat with them was not enough time to explain very much at all about anything. As a result, I went for a second opinion and it was a completely different experience. This breast surgeon spent over an hour explaining the type of breast cancer I had, what it meant, gave a detailed course of action, and was empathetic that I had to face this at such a young age.
I hope to be a voice that raises awareness that breast cancer can happen to healthy young women too! Awareness and early detection are so important, so never ignore your symptoms! Know your body, and if something’s off, GET IT CHECKED OUT!" Read More.
Content Across The Web
Advocating for your health helps you get the care you need and make important decisions regarding your well-being.
Persevere for prompt and proper care: If you have to wait months to be seen, look around to see if other clinics in your area could see you sooner.
Consider a second opinion: In addition to persevering for access to care, it’s vital to explore all potential treatment avenues. Since breast cancer is treated differently depending on your situation, it’s important to seek another opinion on the best course of action. If you get the same (or similar) recommendations from another physician, you can feel fairly confident it’s the best plan for you.
Ask trusted loved ones for help: The presence of a friend or family member at doctors’ appointments can ease the burden of obtaining so much information — especially at the first few appointments.
Ask questions to get what you need: Asking questions is important because it ultimately helps you make the right choice for you. Read More.
“If you want to get good care and live as fully as possible during and after cancer treatment, you must advocate for yourself to your healthcare team. Your physicians and nurses can respond with expertise and compassion only if they understand what you’re experiencing and worrying about. Here’s the thing: They depend on you to tell them. I know this as both a 25-year cancer survivor and a physician.
In my office, despite my efforts to encourage patients to share everything, occasionally patients kept their symptoms, concerns or questions to themselves. Their silence both frustrated and puzzled me. Then my cancer diagnosis yanked me to the other side of the stethoscope where I found myself hesitating to tell my physicians about certain symptoms or worries. Insights and affirmations—and practice! —have helped me overcome common obstacles to self-advocacy. ... Cancer care is a shared mission. Through self-advocacy, we enable our physicians and nurses to provide us the best care, which increases our chance of achieving the best possible outcome today, tomorrow and every day.” Read More.
“It's not just your health you may need to advocate for, but your pocketbook as well. With the vast variety of insurance plans, most of which have different limits and tiers of treatment, your choices for a treatment plan may go beyond your personal preferences. Talk with your insurance company about any areas which leave you feeling uncertain, and ask for your case to be reviewed if you think you fall under an exception to one of the rules.
If you don't understand your bill or see charges you don't expect, don't just accept it. Make a phone call. Sometimes silly mix-ups can cause an insurance claim denial, even something as simple as having your birth date entered incorrectly on a clinic form. Check out these tips on how to fight an insurance claim denial.
Some people may wish to consider hiring a medical billing advocate when overwhelmed with the whole insurance process. You may not understand your bills, be swamped with those your insurance is refusing to pay or be so ill that the thought of sorting through those papers is just too draining.” Read More.
“Know your rights. Even though you’re a patient, you still have rights. The internet is so overwhelming that it’s often hard to filter out the helpful sites from the not so helpful sites. Rethink Breast Cancer has developed a set of 10 care guidelines for newly diagnosed women.
Having someone on the ‘inside’ is also helpful. Depending on where you are treated there may be a nurse/patient navigator who is there to guide you through your cancer journey. This person may be able to help with setting up appointments, answer your questions, or just be there to listen. Sometimes you are referred to a navigator and sometimes the onus is on you to seek one out. At your first appointment, ask if there is a navigator available to assist you with questions you may have or in making difficult treatment choices. And speaking of questions…
There are no dumb questions! Write down questions as they pop into your head, then a day or so before your appointment go over the questions to make sure you aren't missing anything. Some patients feel like they are taking up too much of the doctor’s time if they have a laundry list of questions to ask. You may want to confirm with your doctor at the beginning of your appointment how much time you have. Let the doctor know that you would like to take 10 minutes at the end of the appointment to answer any questions you have that may not be covered during the appointment.” Read More.