Raising Breast Cancer Awareness

Hope Shaw, Contributing Writer

This article originally appeared in University City High School’s The Commander in September 2022. It has been lightly edited for republication.

Breast cancer is something that many have heard of, yet few truly understand it. Founded in 1985, Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a time to celebrate both those who have survived the disease along with those who’ve lost their lives to it. In honor of the upcoming month, Recent Survivor Theresa Riding and Leukemia and Lymphoma SocietyClub (LLS) Leader Junior Aine Govil spoke about their individual experiences with cancer.

“I definitely feel like a survivor,” shared Riding. Every year, hundreds of thousands of women are diagnosed with breast cancer, and thousands lose their lives to it. Founder Janelle Hail, who started Breast Cancer Awareness Month, did so in order to educate women about the disease and the importance of early detection. Hail also founded the National Breast Cancer Foundation with a mission to ensure anyone interested was able to access the information they needed about the disease.

Many Breast Cancer patients, including Riding, have to undergo a form of treatment called Radiation Therapy. “Everyone said, oh radiation, that is easy! However, you have to go every single day, and I had to go 33 times,” said Riding. According to The National Cancer Institute, radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high doses of radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. “Cancer cells whose DNA is damaged beyond repair stop dividing or die. When the damaged cells die, they are broken down and removed by the body,” (seer.cancer.gov).

However, radiation therapy does not kill cancer cells immediately. “It takes days or weeks of treatment before DNA is damaged enough for cancer cells to die. Then, cancer cells keep dying for weeks or months after radiation therapy ends,” (seer.cancer.gov). Govil stressed the importance of cancer treatment. “Of course, it saves lives – but it also helps to further our medical field,” said Govil.

These treatments not only affect the patients physically, but also mentally. According to The American Cancer Society, cancer is often linked with increased depression and anxiety. Breast Cancer is not only something that affects the body, many times it affects emotions and thoughts as well (cancer.org).

Govil also spoke about her experience with cancer. Although she herself did not physically experience it, she spends her time working with children who have. Govil talked about how inspired she was by the optimism of the children she works with. “It really gives me some faith in humanity,”said Govil.

Govil then described her role within the school’s LLS club. She said, “I am a Student Visionary of the Year candidate with the organization, which I have been working with for the past five years.” She detailed her duties within the program, stating, “I work with various non- profits, plus raise money for those in need of it.”

To have cancer in itself is a life- altering ordeal, and yet it affects so many so often that it is sometimes overlooked. Riding talked about how, during her treatment process, it was easy to think about all the negative outcomes that could come of it. “I did not allow myself to go there. I just focused on the positive, which is easy when you have a lot to do,” said Riding. She talked about how this month she will be proud to wear pink. There are over 3.8 million women with a history of Breast Cancer. This year alone, an estimated 264,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and 42,000 will lose their lives to it (seer.cancer.gov).

It’s important to remember that Breast Cancer Awareness Month isn’t just a time to pull an old pink shirt out of the back of your closet and call it a day. It is a time to reach out to those close to you who have been affected, and truly connect with them.