Gail-Ann Smith’s story, shared during the CIBC Run for the Cure on Oct. 2, echoes what 6, 200 women have gone through in Quebec alone this year.
These days, women’s cancers are openly discussed and the world is taking notice. Also, with the progress of treatments and the awareness that is taking place, the mortality rate is the lowest it has been since 1950.
“When I was a teenager, the word ‘cancer’ was terrifying,” said Gloria Smith, Gail-Ann’s sister. Â “I also remember how chemotherapy was horrible. Patients would be deathly ill from the treatments. Today, there are different medications that lessen the side effects of chemo and make treatments more manageable. It allows the patients to have a better quality of life.”
Since its inception in 1994, the Quebec Breast Cancer Foundation, a non-profit organization, has awarded more than twenty million dollars to research projects and support programs in Quebec’s medical community. Contributions like this lead to more variety in treatments, catering to each patient’s specific needs.
“It was confirmed that I would most probably need chemotherapy, to be confirmed by an oncologist, as well as radiation therapy which is protocol for all breast cancer patients,” said Gail-Ann. “Years ago, the breast was most commonly removed, called a mastectomy, but now it is only removed if the recurrence (possibility of the cancer coming back) rate is high.”
The effort to spread the word about breast cancer is heard throughout the world. Here in Quebec, in collaboration with the breast cancer foundation, the CIBC Run for the Cure held its 15th annual run in Maisonneuve Park on Oct. 2 and simultaneously in Quebec City and Sherbrooke.
According to information provided by a press release last year, the run (which is the largest national fundraising event organized by volunteers) included nearly 30,000 Quebecers, who helped raise a total of $2.6 million. The other editions of the run in the rest of the country were also a success, raising $33 million in 60 communities.
Fundraisers like this play a great role in research funding. Until science finds a way to eradicate cancer, these organisations will continue to fund services and research for better therapies. The five-year survival rate for breast cancer is now at 88 per cent. The percentage would never have risen this high if female cancers had remained a taboo subject.
Thankfully the future looks bright for breast cancer patients, due to endless support groups, extensive research and events that draw awareness to the disease. However, it is up to each person to take the initiative and actively lower their risk of breast cancer by taking certain precautions.
“Cancer is an ongoing disease that we learn to live with every day. We have to make changes in all aspects of our lives, be it our eating habits, physical activity, stress management and we must listen to our bodies,” said Gail-Ann. “We have to always stay positive and live every day to its fullest.”
It is important to look towards the future. Although there is no cure yet, by following a healthy diet, getting regular mammogram checks and not smoking, we can all take steps towards reducing the statistics of moms, sisters and daughters who fall victim to breast cancer. Being aware of the risks and one’s own family history of cancer is crucial in order to catch breast cancer early and stop it dead in its tracks.
Many people have the impression that it could never happen to them, and do not budge until it is too late. Cancer does not discriminate, it does not choose certain types of people. We are all vulnerable and we are all affected by it. Take charge and take the first steps into living a healthier life, for the sake of tomorrow.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Here are 10 useful and possibly life-saving breast health tips from the Ruban Rose website:
1. Mammogram: Have a mammogram every two years after the age of 50.
2. Clinical exams: Go to your doctor once a year for a clinical examination.
3. Breast observation: Listen to your body and be aware of any changes.
4. Tobacco: Stop using tobacco and avoid second-hand smoke.
5. Nutrition: Eat healthy. A diet that is low in fat, rich in fibre and well-balanced with fruits and vegetables reduces the risk of breast cancer.
6. Physical activity: Run, walk, move. A minimum of four hours of exercise a week reduces the risk of breast cancer.
7. Alcohol: Moderate your alcohol intake.
8. Family history: Be vigilant. Consult your doctor if there is a history of breast cancer in your family.
9. Weight: Watch your weight. People who are overweight have a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
10. Balanced life: Lead a balanced life and avoid stress. Physical and emotional well-being leads to good health.
Prevent cancer by changing your diet
-Reduce the amount of red meat, eggs, whole milk, and butter in your diet, as these foods are all high in saturated fats.
-Replace regular vegetable oil for olive oil when cooking.
-Add nuts and seeds to your diet. You could always sprinkle some flax seeds on your morning cereal, which you will barely taste but will do wonders for your health. Or you could always bring nuts to snack on when hungry after class.
-Let go of the junk food. I think McDonald’s will live without having you as a valuable customer.
-Eat lots of fish! It is good to eat fish once or twice a week because it contains omega-3 fatty acids which are good for the heart. So how about replacing your steak and fries with a nice poached salmon with some grilled veggies?