6 simple ways you can help change the conversation around breast cancer
During Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM), many people impacted by breast cancer want to give back in a meaningful way, but the idea of being a breast cancer advocate can be daunting. Many associate “advocacy” with starting a non-profit organization or leading protests on Capitol Hill. But advocacy doesn’t have to involve raising millions of dollars for research or organizing thousands of marchers in Washington; not everyone has the resources to do those things. Meanwhile, small gestures can make a big impact, especially when thousands of people take them. We all possess unique tools, talents, and experiences to advocate for, and support, what’s important to us.
Changing the conversation
Living Beyond Breast Cancer’s (LBBC’s) theme for BCAM this year focuses on changing the conversation around breast cancer. Here are six suggestions for seemingly small things you can do any month to make a difference:
1. Focus (or re-focus) within
Self-advocacy is taking an active role in your care and treatment with your health care team; no one can advocate for others if they don’t first advocate for themselves. Self-advocacy is an ongoing process, one that’s often learned through personal experience.
This month, if you’re personally impacted by breast cancer, you may want to take some time to check in and recommit to self-advocacy. The National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship offers resources that can help you find your focus. Consider ways to assess your mental health, your sexual health, or think about how to better manage treatment side effects. LBBC offers tools that can support you through this process.
2. Talk about breast cancer screening
Discuss your experience with mammograms, ultrasounds, and other tests openly with friends, family members, and coworkers. If a loved one hasn’t had a mammogram and is due for one, encourage them to make an appointment. Offer to help with scheduling or getting to a mammography center, if needed. Share your experience about what these tests are like, to dispel myths and address fears. And encourage the ones you love to ask questions about what screening test results mean so they have a better understanding of their risks for breast cancer.
3. Invest in your community
If you belong to a church, synagogue, mosque, or other religious or spiritual group, let a leader know that you’d be willing to help a member who’s being treated for breast cancer or a fellow caregiver who might appreciate learning about resources to help. You could simply offer support and encouragement, or you could organize a meal train or drive someone to treatment.
4. Use your personal experience
If you’ve finished treatment, you’ve acquired wisdom and insight that may benefit someone who has recently been diagnosed. Simply sharing your story with a person who has just learned they have breast cancer may help them feel less alone. Caregivers and other supporters can offer their unique perspective to those currently supporting loved ones, acting as a sounding board they may desperately need or not know how to ask for.
Some people diagnosed with breast cancer have little support from family and friends; others have plenty of help, but they want to talk to someone who’s been where they are. Many organizations offer programs that connect people living with breast cancer to those who are newly diagnosed. Among them are:
5. Be a voice for change (from the comfort of home)
Let your elected officials know what’s important to you. The National Breast Cancer Coalition offers resources to help connect people with their state representatives and provides email templates to make it easy to contribute to the conversation around breast cancer. You can also reach out to your city or county government officials to find out how to get involved locally. Every email, text, or call matters.
6. Shop with intention
Looking to treat yourself or need a special gift for a loved one? Shop at stores or companies whose values align with your own. Some companies support research; others provide resources for people living with breast cancer. Some raise money for people who need help in your local area. You’ll find many options, especially during BCAM.
LBBC’s Shop to Support partners help us provide free services and programs to people impacted by breast cancer. We carefully vet partners to ensure clear communication about the percentage of your purchase, or the total donation, that goes toward delivery on our mission. Through this work with our partners, more consumers discover LBBC’s resources and engage with the programs and supports we offer.
A powerful way to make a difference is donate directly to LBBC or to another breast cancer organization of your choice.
Everyone can effect change according to their own resources, interests, and skills. It’s important to remember that advocacy is not a one-size-fits-all experience. The simplest actions, no matter how small they may seem, create a ripple effect in changing the conversation around breast cancer.
Sign up to receive emotional support, medical insight, personal stories, and more, delivered to your inbox weekly.