Almost 9 years back, my mother broke the news to me, “Masi (aunt) has been diagnosed with breast cancer.” I was numb for a while. And then as a tornado of thoughts hit my mind, I could only mutter “It is curable.” I don’t know if I was trying to convince her or myself. My mother didn’t pay heed to what I said as she was frantically packing to be with her sister.
Thankfully, my aunt survived the battle. But, the word breast cancer has been stuck in my mind ever since. It was not as if I was not aware of it. I just never thought it would hit home literally. And since then I have become consciously aware of breast cancer. Not as something I would read in a random article or know for a certain exam but as a piece of knowledge on which my life depended.
Even though there is enough research to prove that you could be the next target, we choose to remain oblivious. It is a deadly disease, the terminator as my masi would often say. But are we prepared to deal with it? I don’t think so. You know why I can say that with so much surety? Because even though we have a cancer survivor in our family we don’t talk about it. Even after we have all dealt with her illness in one way or the other, we choose to remain silent about it. The agony and trauma get to everyone around. We knew what could be the after effects of chemo and radiation therapy. But it was difficult to brace ourselves and see her suffer like that. Also since then, every time she falls sick we all are afraid that the monster might resurface. We are still haunted by the thoughts of it. If it was that difficult for the family, how terrible it would be for the person who has survived it. I understand it is traumatic to even think of and probably that is why I often feel that it is something that needs to be shared all the more. So that someone who doesn’t know or doesn’t have the resources to know isn’t caught off guard.
Breast cancer is one of the most common cancer in women. The chance that a woman will die from breast cancer is about 1 in 38. We need to be aware of what are the causes, what are the early signs, when to consult a doctor, etc. There are tonnes of articles out there but we don’t pay attention. We fret about the size, colour and padding of our bra but we do not give much thought to the health of our breasts. Even when there is a category that spells “mastectomy bra”. Do we pay attention? No! It is high time we break the shame and the silence. It needs to be talked about as much as we talk about freeing the nipple.
For a majority of women in India basic hygiene is an issue while they struggle for education and empowerment. But I ask you, the ones who are reading this article. When was the last time you had a breast exam? Or even a self-exam? Do you even know how to conduct a self-exam? And mothers!!! Did you teach your daughters to take care of their breasts? Oh of course! You told them to cover it up and make sure that their cleavage doesn’t show. Isn’t that how you were told to protect your breasts from the eyes of the men. But what about the predator lurking inside your own body ready to ravage it. No one told you about it! So as much as you remain armed with all that mace and self-defence, it is high time you took measures for your own internal defence. I know it is getting preachy but it is your life!
So what do we do? We become aware. We volunteer. We talk to cancer survivors. Perhaps that conversation would change our perspective. Early detection of cancer improves the chances of survival. Please read about it, talk to experts and share the knowledge with all the women in your life. The world needs women power and for that we need women.
The pink ribbon is more than an accessory that you flaunt in your Instagram pictures. It is awareness, struggle and hope.
“Once you choose hope, anything is possible”