IT’S that time of year again. I am not thinking of beer swilling at the Oktoberfest, nor of the impending conundrum of whether to don a witch’s or vampire outfit for Halloween.
October is – seemingly – the one month when we are allowed to utter the most fearful of words; breast cancer. So, for this one time, I shall forego the customary irreverence of this column to share my views on this curse which still befalls so many.
The problem with ‘Breast Cancer Awareness Month’ is that these pesky rogue cells don’t conveniently confine themselves to October alone; it is a battle that consumes you and takes over your life for the month, for the year and forever; whether you recover or not and whether it is you or someone you love that bears the brunt of the ordeal.
We are not invincible, but it is not until something like cancer strikes that you fully realise just how vulnerable we are – it is this sense of loss of immortality that stays with us once the circus of surgeries, chemo and radiotherapy is finally over. Still, we piece our lives together again, as best we can, resolve to make the most of every waking moment and to turn a negative into a positive.
Like Christmas, October’s one month show of solidarity has become a bit of a hallmark moment, but if it reminds just one person to go for a check-up, which leads to early diagnosis, then it is a job well done, however trivial those pink bows and fun runs may seem. I have been to too many funerals for friends who were diagnosed too late, so I will not apologise for yet another reminder here. And if you don’t believe the first diagnosis, ask for a second opinion – ultimately we know our own bodies best and doctors can make mistakes.
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer six years ago, I read almost every book I could find on the subject, but the one that made sense to me was ‘Your life in your hands’, by Dr Jane Plant. She points out the strong link between the hormones in dairy and red meat and breast cancer, as well as prostate cancer.
She lists many preventative measures, but the main message is to remove all dairy products from your diet. As for calcium, there are plenty of far better sources, such as nuts, pulses and broccoli.
‘Cutting the cow’ is not necessarily a cure or guaranteed prevention, but it is something you can control (apart from getting that crucial early check-up).
The stress of life and our genetical make-up are considerably more difficult to change. Our bodies were designed to heal themselves and to fight diseases, but they can only do so with the right fuel – or nutrition, something generally lacking from our diets today.
We all wish for a cure and for recovery for those affected; but in the meantime, please do me a favour and think about prevention too. And hopefully October will soon be a month like any other, without the dreaded ‘C’-word.
All profits from Ulrica’s book $Expat Wives go to Run for the Cure, Japan.