Although we are at the end of October, it is still National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and you have a few more days to become or stay aware. I would like to celebrate the survivors, pay tribute to those who have lost their struggle, and remind everyone to know the warning signs, get screened and stay in charge of your health. Although it is very rare, men can get breast cancer too. Everyone needs to be aware, both for themselves and for their loved ones.

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month has a great website full of important information and links – http://www.nbcam.org. This is an excellent place to begin awareness. Many people do not like to think about illness or death, but pretending that nothing bad is going to happen or ignoring warning signs or the “feeling that something is wrong” will hurt you. Even if you feel fine and have no warning signs, make sure you do self exams, have regular breast exams performed by a health professional and get diagnostic tests such as a mammogram and MRI. The website provides links to free or low-cost mammograms if you do not have health insurance or are not covered by Medicare or Medicaid.

Become informed and remember that you are your best advocate! Do not be afraid to speak to your doctor, ask questions, ask more questions and push for as much information as possible. Yes, you need to rely on the health professionals, but you are a vital member of the team.

As discussed on nbcam.org, many women have risk factors that are associated with a greater chance to develop breast cancer. If you fall into this category, New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center offers programs, screenings, early interventions, support and other resources. This is a link to the Women at Risk website. It is conducting a symposium entitled, “Empower Yourself: Lifestyle and Wellness Choices of Women at High Risk for or with Breast Cancer” on Monday, 11/14/11 from 5:30 to 8 in midtown. Please call 212-305-5917 or email info@womenatrisknyc.org for more information.

If you are a breast cancer patient, keep on taking care of and empowering yourself. Learn as much as you can about your illness and take advantage of all the support groups out there. If you are a survivor, congratulations and please share your experiences and knowledge. We all have to take care of each other. Whether you are a patient or a survivor, I hope you have many years of health and happiness.

A very dear friend was buried last week. She learned she had inflammatory breast cancer almost 10 years ago. Inflammatory breast cancer is rare and unlike traditional breast cancers. There is no lump. Her breast was red and inflamed and she thought she had an infection. Her regular doctor put her on antibiotics. She finally went to a specialist who sent her for tests and to see more specialists, and she was diagnosed a few months later with inflammatory breast cancer. By the time the cancer appears as a red inflamed breast, it is already advanced. An oncologist at a famous Eastside cancer center coldly gave her three months, but she refused to accept it. She was fortunate to find a not so famous oncologist in Orange County with a wonderful staff whose care, combined with her determination, gave her almost 10 years.

Rest in peace Dawn, and all other strong and brave women who lost their battles. We will keep fighting in your memory.

Mary Casey is a student in the MS in Business Leadership and Management program at CUNY School of Professional Studies and is an alumna of Lehman College. She is an administrator for a university in NYC. She loves to travel and wants to see as much of the world as possible. Mary almost has more comments on the SPS blog than she received on the community/political blog that she created and maintained from 2002 to 2004.

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