This post is a bit *different* from the usual around here in that it’s about a much more serious, sobering topic: cancer.
Specifically, breast cancer.
Not that we ever shy away from the tough stuff around these rosy parts (or the pink stuff, for that matter), but I don’t think I’ve ever buckled down to share something as specific as one disease or one cause or campaign. I’m so truly honored to be working with the Not One Type campaign to kickoff October this year.
The beautiful thing about the Not One Type campaign is the awareness and connectedness it brings to breast cancer patients + survivors everywhere. So often (TOO often), we think pink when we think breast cancer, and we only think breast cancer in October – or unless it personally hits us in some way or another. And when we think pink, we think one shade of pink, really. The classic pink that’s on ribbons and t-shirts and bumper stickers all month long.
But really, there’s so much more to breast cancer than meets the eye (or boob?). Namely that’s there just simply not one type of breast cancer like many of us presume. In fact, there are many kinds of breast cancers, each with their own accompanying prognosis + plan.
The scary statistics? 271,000 Americans will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime.
If you put Katie and I together in a room with our moms and our grandmoms, that means statistically speaking, at least one of us will have breast cancer at some point. That’s not even talking other KINDS of cancers or diseases – that’s just breast cancer.
I mean, if that’s not a wakeup call, I don’t really know what is.
Recently one of our favorite fall shows came back on TV, and two of the characters are breast cancer survivors. Then a few weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending a little lunch + learning session with the folks at Genentech, Living Beyond Breast Cancer, and Soma Intimates to learn more about the Not One Type campaign, and to hear from some survivors firsthand about their own stories. And WOW what an empowering + educational time it was.
We also heard from HER2+ breast cancer survivor Dana Donofree, who was diagnosed at age 27, two months before her planned wedding. She’s now nearly ten years cancer-free (bless up) and has since founded the company Ana Ono, an intimates company that makes bras for survivors who might not fit the “mold” of traditional lingerie retailers – as in, maybe only have one breast now, or have had a double mastectomy, or reconstructive surgery altogether.
Dana didn’t know what would happen next after her diagnosis. She didn’t know if she would need both breasts amputated from her body, or if she would need her ovaries removed and never have biological children, or if she could still get married. And as Dana so vulnerably revealed her story, she said “I didn’t know young women could GET breast cancer.”
I mean, how true amiright? I don’t think Dana was alone in that thought, since probably MOST of us don’t think young women can (+ do) get breast cancer until we’re personally affected by it in some way/shape/form.
And as I know well now, there is NOT one type of breast cancer alone. So I wanted to share a few tidbits of information that I thought were most helpful/enlightening from what I’ve learned so far, in the hopes that it may help one of you, too (or your mom, your sister, your best friend or third cousin twice removed – you get the gist 😉 ).
The Not One Type campaign breaks down 4 S’s to learn about here:
I think this is a more well-known “cancer word”; stage indicates whether cancer has spread, and if so, how far. All of the below points impact the stage level, and a higher stage number means the cancer has spread more (stage IV means the cancer has spread to other organs and has metastasized). If you’re metastatic, you’re likely lifespan is on average 36 months.
Meaning, has the cancer spread to any lymph nodes? The lymph nodes are small structures that are part of your body’s immune system. They’re connected together by lymph vessels. For breast cancer specifically, one of the first places it’s likely to spread is to the lymph nodes under your arms.
Breast cancer tumors vary in size – anywhere from microscopic to 5 centimeters wide.
Cancer cells are different from normal, healthy cells because they’re mutated + multiplying out of control. The biology of the cell determines its sub-type. Hormone-receptor positive breast cancer is the most common type. This is when cancer cells have receptors for estrogen or progesterone in them, and the cancer depends on these hormones to grow.
There’s also HER2-positive breast cancer, a sub-type that accounts for 15-20% of diagnoses. With HER2-positive, the cancer cells have excess HER2 proteins in them, causing them to grow.
And then there’s triple-negative breast cancer, which most folks haven’t even ever HEARD about. Here, they’re not dependent on hormones OR proteins – somethinge else entirely is causing the cancer’s growth.
So really, at the end of the day (or, by the end of this blog post), I hope for two things.
First, I hope that you clearly recognize that there is not one type of breast cancer alone. That it’s not this one-dimensional disease. It’s just as serious as any other cancer, even when surrounded by pink tutus.
Second, I hope that you’re encouraged to take your health into your own hands and be informed. Talk to your doctor. Know your family history. Check for lumps. Encourage your loved ones to do the same. Things are always easier + better when found earlier. So don’t let something go by unnoticed unnecessarily. We have to do whatever it takes to knock breast cancer out for good.
If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with breast cancer, checkout the Not One Type Campaign’s website. They have a really comprehensive list of questions to ask your doctor so that you can get educated on your type, as well as a culmination of real stories from real women in your shoes so that you can get empowered in knowing you’re not alone.
**Sponsored by Genentech. Thanks to Genentech for sponsoring this post. As always, all opinions + thoughts presented are entirely my own. Thank YOU for supporting the brands that support Coming Up Roses!