A sister can be seen as someone who is both ourselves and very much not ourselves – a special kind of double. ~ Toni Morrison
National Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Globally, every three minutes one woman around the world is diagnosed with the common disease known as breast cancer. Every year, about 1 in 8 (about 12%) women in the United States alone will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. Statistically, more than 95% of women in the United States alone who are diagnosed with breast cancer are over the age of 40, and someone you know.
This year, a projected 231,840 women and 2,350 men are expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer, an increase of 450 since 2013. In 2012, an estimated 226,870 new cases of breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in women – an increase of 19,780 from 2011. In 2011, there were an estimated 2,899,726 women living with breast cancer in the U.S. www.cancer.gov
This year, 40, 290 women are expected to die from this disease, and 60,290 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed. In 2012, 63,300 new cases of (in situ) breast cancer were detected, opposed to that of 54,010 in 2011. However, the rate of breast cancer deaths from 2011 to present continue to decrease due to heightened awareness and early detection. www.breastcancer.org
On January 9, 2007, I lost one of the most extraordinary and influential sisters in my circle to this second leading cause of death among women. Since that time, I’ve lost several others. My sister-friend, Queen, anchor-in-the-wind Dyan Adams, taught me one of the most valuable lessons I will ever learn: awareness is the key that opens the door to staying in the boat.
Dyan was a respected make-up artist, esthetician, mother, friend to all who knew her and dedicated breast cancer advocate residing in Washington, D.C. A hero and a messenger, she discovered both her passion and purpose through her own diagnosis and advocacy, to communicate the importance of early detection to women all over the world. After watching a close friend loose her battle with breast cancer, Dyan became resilient and dedicated to performing her own periodic self-examinations. After a few mammograms that tested negative and implementing some of her own initiatives, she visited her holistic doctor for clarification and insight. After several more tests and conclusive results, things got quite blurry for Dyan. She was then forced to go inward in stillness to attain the peace she was seeking.
It was this considerable perspective that influenced Dyan to realize her dream. She created and became the sole proprietor of DV8 (Deviate) Intimate Day Spa, a health and healing full service day spa centered on holistic wellness and the fostering of positive energy to aid in the healing of the mind, the body, the heart and the soul. Her primary focus of the facility was to balance wellness, beauty and inner peace. She combined this concept with a daily objective to deliver the ultimate therapeutic and holistic experience by providing a nurturing atmosphere to those in need of a spiritual “deviation.”
A cosmetologist by trade, Dyan specialized in body and facial massages and promoted an array of products that customers could administer on their own initiative. Her mantra for the spa and a conviction she devoted to all, “Come in Pieces…Leave whole” became her spiritual trademark and legacy. She believed that humble hearts could be interconnected, fragmented spirits could be mended, and life was full of creativity, connection and commitment. By honoring her beliefs in God she was able to share with many and connect with most.
Dyan’s journey was a purposeful one. The race was rapidly approaching on June 4, 2005 in Washington, DC. It was yet again, the Annual Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, National Race for the Cure. Dyan was gathering up the crew for the big day – hers and ours too. The day would begin as early as 5 o’clock so she welcomed a sleepover. She became a team sponsor and established her own Internet page for registrations. I encouraged as many sister-friends as possible to engage, sign-up, polish their running shoes and get ready for the big 5-mile challenge. We all wanted to support the cause but more importantly, we wanted to support Dyan in her personal journey as a breast cancer survivor.
Everyone was someone to Dyan. A beautiful reflection of love and light, she honored old friends and cherished new acquaintances. I never recall her being reluctant to share her story, her faith, her home, her resources or even the blemishes from her mastectomy with family, friends and strangers alike. For as long as I can remember, Dyan appreciated the road less traveled and never once resisted to share her knowledge, love and consideration for others.
Over time, I have discovered that the relevance of our journeys is rarely about us. Our lives are much more substantial than they ever appear. Those around us reflect who we are and where we are on this journey of consciousness. It was more than seven years ago that I began to fanatically fall in love with the color PINK when Dyan illustrated to me how to flaunt its’ true exquisiteness. She revealed her fear – flight – and faith in overcoming her diagnosis of breast cancer. I was amazed by her dynamic spirit of resilience and determination to battle the disease with a strong sense of certainty.
Her altruism was, “I don’t hang out with fear – I roll out with faith.”
Every October is ardently dedicated to the annual international health campaign known as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month or NBCAM. This month NBCAM celebrates 29 years of dedication to the awareness, education and empowerment of this cause. This worldwide campaign offers information, research, and support to those affected by breast cancer, as well as provides preventive attentiveness to others and in efforts to finding a cure. These decreases are thought to be the result of treatment advances and earlier detection through screening and increased awareness.
Surprisingly, about 85% of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer. These occur due to genetic mutations that happen as a result of the aging process and life in general, rather than inherited mutations. In Western countries, 89.2% of women diagnosed with breast cancer are still alive 5 years after their diagnosis. In the U.S., breast cancer strikes Caucasian women most often, followed by African American women, Asian American and Pacific Islanders, Hispanic or Latina, and Native Americans. However, African American women are most likely to die first.
Male Breast Cancer, which is rare, is often overlooked. In 2009, male breast cancer advocacy groups such as the Brandon Greening Foundation for Breast Cancer in Men, Out of the Shadow of Pink, and A Man’s Pink joined together to globally establish the third week of October as “Male Breast Cancer Awareness Week.” In 2012, 2,190 new cases of breast cancer and 410 deaths were estimated to develop in men. As of today, a man’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is about 1 in 1,000. www.nationalbreastcancer.org
Every October during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, communities raise funds, devote their time, and employ fundraising walks and a variety of global activities, from the United States to Australia, New Zealand to Romania, in an effort to engage in this pink passion of awareness, empowerment, and LIFE. Organizations such as Ride to Empower, Susan G. Komen For the Cure, Breast Cancer Network of Strength’s, National Cancer Institute [NCI], Men Against Breast Cancer [MABC], American Cancer Society [ACS], and even the National Football League [NFL] fully support the research and continued initiatives for breast cancer awareness.
Every personal encounter we embrace in this life has its own decree of divinity. There is a reason, season, or lifetime lesson to be gotten. Dyans courage and conscious conviction saved hundreds of women’s lives today. She shared a vast amount of knowledge with me and many women on early detection and diagnosis. Her quest to embrace her own journey and minister to hundreds of women, young and old, is a testamony to her legacy.
Here are some ways that you can begin your opportunity for advocacy.
- Be present through self-awareness
- Provide sisterhood support
- Get an annual screening and clinical breast exam [every 3 years beginning at age 20 and every year beginning at age 40]
- Understand risk factors
- Communicate with your physician
- Utilize all resources [www.cancer.org, komen.org, www.iccnetwork.org, http://www.cancer.gov]
Today, there are more than 2.8 million breast cancer survivors in the United States.
love, light, and awareness for your journey!
A memoir of Dyan’s breast cancer journey can be found in the inspirational book “Tuesday Morning Love: 52 Commentaries and Weekly Affirmations to Honor the Soul within the Souldier”. Dyan Adams public interview can be found in the WUSA Channel 9 Archives.
For more commentary on breast cancer awareness, please reference October 19, 2010 – The Power of Pink: A race and space for healing and October 4, 2011- Take Courage w/Wanda Sykes.