Breast Cancer’s Six Degrees of Separation

Other than being able to creep your acquaintances’ photo’s, the appeal of social networking sites, like Facebook, is to visualize the six degrees of separation theory at an immediate level.  The first things to check when you meet someone new is which friends’ do you randomly have in common, how do you both know them, how have you not met before?

The concept of six degrees of separation can also be applied to the network of people impacted by Breast Cancer.  So starting with me:

4 – The number of women in my life who have been diagnosed with Breast Cancer

3 – The number of women in my life who have survived or are still battling

1 – The number of Breast Cancer scares (that I am aware of) that someone close to me has had

9 – The age I first became aware of the words Breast Cancer

15- The age I was first told about self-examinations by my doctor

20 – Approximately the age I stopped being embarrassed to say Breast Cancer out loud

Assuming all four women in my life who have been diagnosed with Breast Cancer have an average family of two children, and are the product of a family with two children, the number of people affected by these four women’s illness, there are approximately 60 people who are directly impacted by these 4 women’s lives.  This isn’t even including the numerous friends, extended relatives, communities, and future generations who are a part of these women’s networks.  Given that 4 is by no means a high number women to have known with Breast Cancer, the extrapolation that would accompany everyone’s “number” only demonstrates the wide reaching effect Breast Cancer has in today’s world.

The words Breast Cancer have invaded society, not unlike the concepts of terrorism.  As a young child, I was completely unaware of both these terms, and it wasn’t until I began running in the CIBC Run for the Cure in Junior High that Breast Cancer became a common phrase in my world.  Ironically, due to my age, it was around that time that the word terrorism became common place, yet both held a great amount of power and fear, especially for a pre-teen. As the years have passed, however, one of the two has maintained a steady presence in my life, making me more aware of its power, while the other has become a minor daily annoyance if I try to go through security at the airport.  Breast Cancer is something that, as we grow older, we know more of, know more people who have been affected by it, know more people who haven’t been able to beat it.

They say early detection and education are the best tools in the battle against Breast Cancer.  I don’t think I’ll ever forget the awkward (to a teenager) conversation I had with general physician regarding Breast Cancer when she thought it was time for me to begin self-examinations.  Indignantly, I refused to understand why I, in my youth, should have to concern myself with such a health concept, until she took the time to explain to me that as a youth it was not so much that they were anticipating my finding the dreaded lump, but that it was about learning what to check for.  It is difficult to know what is a lump to be concerned about versus what is normal, if you aren’t aware of what was normal to begin with.

While this helped me understand and justify something I had previously considered unnecessary, it definitely did not make me anymore comfortable with the topic.  Many forms of Cancer are difficult to talk about, particularly with youth, due to the terms used in the naming.  Part of education young adults about the early symptoms of all forms of cancer, but particularly Breast Cancer is make the topic approachable and remove the stigma’s associated with it.  The stigma’s of it being an OLDER woman’s disease, of being an older WOMEN’S disease, of it being our mother’s disease and grandmother’s disease.  Personally, I’ve never had a scare (aside from the first self-examination I tried where I was convinced I was practically in the grave, luckily mild hypochondria is easily cured) but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it to keep checking, and to educate friends and loved ones of the importance of these examinations.

This brief overview of the general picture of Breast Cancer is only the beginning.  Breast Cancer is something that we can unite against, through early education, early detection, and fundraising for research so that our sons and daughters may live in a wold where they only hear stories of previous generations afflicted by this disease, and don’t have to watch their family members suffer. This blog is being designed by Youth to discuss upcoming ideas and research, share healthy lifestyle tips (a proven method of working towards living a cancer free life), and post about our exploits and attempts to educate the masses. So join us, check back often for the latest and the greatest, and why not start by sharing your stats, there’s a decent chance that we have a someone in common between these stats.  They don’t have to be the same fields as mine, but we’re all connected in the fact that we’ve been touched by a life that has been affected by Breast Cancer, likely several, so let’s get connected!

With Hope

PS Self-examination is the way to go! Regardless of age or gender, it never hurts to know!

**Caitlin is a Youth Advisory Council member and guest blogger on Unhooked!


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