October "Awareness" Works

October is breast cancer awareness month. Read about how awareness led a young mother to the early detection of her breast cancer.


It's that time of year again, when everything turns pink. 

It seems that every year there are more products—people wear pink hair extensions and pink bracelets; write in pink binders; eat eggs stamped with pink ribbons; wash their dishes with pink-ribboned sponges; and watch football players donning pink. 

The purpose is to raise awareness, and sometimes funds, for a disease that will cause one in eight women to hear the words, "You have cancer."

Last year, when October came around, I actually felt a little queasy walking into stores and became overwhelmed by the pinkness. Whereas my recent participation in the Susan Komen Race for a Cure—and seeing the seemingly endless rows of people was inspiring—the rows of pink products in the stores made me nauseated.

The marketing of a disease. And aren't people already aware? 

But, as this year rolled around—and as I am getting close to reaching my third year of surviving breast cancer—I realized that all of this October hoopla encouraged me to take the step that led to the early detection of my cancer.

I am pretty much a "by the rules" person, and proactive. I knew that mammograms were recommended beginning at age 40. I asked my gynecologist about getting a baseline mammogram, and had one when I was 39. At my next visit I got a prescription for my first routine mammogram that I planned to have at 40. 

Then I turned 41, it was at the bottom of my "to-do" list. I think all mothers can relate to this. I had no qualms about getting the mammogram...I just simply forgot. 

But "awareness" slowly crept in.

One of my daughters donated hair to the Pantene Beautiful Lengths program in the spring, which provides wigs to cancer patients, and I signed up for my first breast cancer walk—the October American Cancer Society's Making Strides Walk in Manhattanville College—to walk in memory of a friend's mother. 

October was turning pink, and it reminded me that I hadn't gotten that mammogram. 

I dug up the prescription. It had expired. I made a doctor's appointment, got a new prescription, and my November mammogram, two months before my 42nd birthday, was the beginning of a life-changing journey that I will share with you in upcoming posts.   

Helene is a 44-year-old breast cancer survivor, mother of three, and resident of White Plains.  She works as a freelance editor of legal study guides.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Katie Ryan O'Connor October 06, 2011 at 11:45 PM
Helene, thank you so much for this post! I'm looking forward to reading more.
Andrea Horowitz October 09, 2011 at 04:43 PM
Helene, appreciative of this post and your sharing. Reminders are always welcome. Knowing my maternal grandmother, and paternal aunt (a survivor to age 90) had breast cancer, my mother always expressed the importance of our having annual check-ups and mammograms. Now, as one managing not only my medical appts., I also manage those of my adult sister(with special needs), it is important for all of us (including caregivers, family and others) to be aware of scheduling annual mammograms. I also appreciate your mentioning Pantene Beautiful Lengths program for hair donations as I've been wanting to donate hair and wig(needing refurbishment) to a reputable organization. I'm looking forward to reading more.
David Schonbrun October 10, 2011 at 12:49 AM
Back from the Giants game today. The Giants' end zone logos were pink, as were their socks and cleats. Chalk ribbon designs were added to the field. Survivors were acknowledged and honored. Very nice -- reminded me of Manny Ramirez swinging a pink bat at Fenway on Mothers Day a few years back. Wonderful how the cause is being embraced and respected.
Helene Schonbrun October 12, 2011 at 01:41 AM
Thanks all for your support.
Heather Flournoy October 12, 2011 at 05:20 PM
Helene- best of luck! You are brave for sharing publicly! If you are at all interested in natural alternatives, there is a series of interviews coming up from some great investigative journalists. " The "Healing Cancer World Summit" is an online event that has 5 nights of lectures from natural cancer experts, doctors and nutritionists that will give people the information that they say will help you prevent or even treat cancer naturally. This information is not well known, and in fact, is somewhat controversial. He'll be interviewing each expert candidly about their cutting-edge research and experience with cancer - one-on-one - to extract every bit of information from them. For 5 days starting October 25, 2011 until October 29th, there will be 2 hours of information-packed lectures a night. You’ll be sent the exact page - by email - that you need to visit to get access to these evening events. They will start at 8 PM EST http://www.renegadehealth.com/cancer/ I suspect it will be helpful information for your writing if nothing else. Best, Heather
Lorraine Phillips October 16, 2011 at 02:59 PM
Hey, Helene. There is never enough pink if it takes one woman to the doctor and saves her life. I am on your team to let the world know that surviving is based on knowing. Early diagnosis is key. I am a 2-time survivor and I am here to write this because I followed up and make the appointments and go, no matter how busy my life. Thanks for your blog.
Helene Schonbrun January 08, 2013 at 02:04 PM
Katie, I've been blogging on the breast cancer storyline on the tv series "Parenthood". Click on my name at the top of the blog if you would like to read them.
Helene Schonbrun January 08, 2013 at 02:05 PM
Hi Lorraine, Hope you're doing well. If you're interested in reading my latest blogs, about the breast cancer storyline on the tv series "Parenthood", click on my name at the top of the blog.


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