Breast cancer awareness sweeps the nation


Fairmont’s volleyball team supports breast cancer awareness through the Volley for the Cure game against Beavercreek.

By the end of 2010, an estimated 39,840 women and 390 men will die of breast cancer. Another 209,060 people will be diagnosed with the disease. Breast cancer is the leading killer of middle-aged women worldwide and early detection is important for survival. So important that the month of October has been made National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

What is Breast Cancer Awareness Month?

No, it’s not only about wearing pink. Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a month where, nationwide, people come together to raise awareness about the danger of breast cancer through walks, marathons, dinners, sporting events and many other fun activities to raise funds to support breast cancer research. Of course, a lot of pink is worn as well.

Research is extremely important in finding a cure for breast cancer. And without money research can’t be done, so fundraising for the cure is also extremely important. Fairmont chemistry teacher Dustin Jordan knows firsthand the effects of lack of research. When he was 12 years old, he lost his mother to breast cancer. A few years later, his aunt was diagnosed with the same cancer and survived because of the technology developed from funding. In just those few years, the treatment of breast cancer changed greatly.

“If my mom had developed cancer five or 10 years later, I think the technology would have been better to where she would have been fine, so funding for research on breast cancer is extremely important,” said Jordan.

Living without his mother to see him grow up and become the man he is today is extremely painful for Jordan. “It’s been 21 years and I still think about my mom on a pretty regular basis. There aren’t too many days that go by where I don’t think about her, especially now that I have two daughters,” he said.

The federal government knows the importance of funding and now gives more than $900 million a year to fund research, treatment and prevention of the disease.

Jordan is very happy with the direction of federal funding. “If we could continue a progression to where we’re still funding for technology and research and different treatments, then we could possibly progress to a point where cancer is not a big deal anymore,” he said.

Stories of hope

Breast cancer may sound like a scary disease of fatal effects, and it is. But many have survived because of early detection.

Kettering resident April Barnswell is a great example of the benefits of early detection. Her grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer before her, so she knew she needed to get mammograms at an earlier age and try to detect cancer at an early stage. “I went for my annual mammogram and usually you get a letter saying, ‘You’re fine; come back in a year.’ But instead I got a phone call and then I knew something was wrong,” she said.

Barnswell was examined and diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in-situ, which is the lowest stage of breast cancer. She decided to have a double mastectomy, the removal of both breasts, at that point. “As a single mom with a young child, you don’t want to mess with breast cancer,” she said.

Now Barnswell lives a productive, healthy life, and she’s made some lifestyle changes. “I avoid eating things that are known carcinogens. I eat and drink a lot more natural organic foods. I avoid anything with artificial preservatives,” she said.

Another survivor, Barb Runyon, mother of Fairmont physics teacher Chad Runyon, also believes in a healthy diet. “I try to eat better and exercise more now,” she said.

Runyon was diagnosed with breast cancer after feeling a lump one night and following up with her doctor. She became very worried for her family at that point. “Everyone got really upset. I was afraid I wasn’t going to see my kids grow up. Chad was just a junior in high school, and it crossed my mind that I wouldn’t even get to see him graduate. But it turned out much better than that,” she said.

Runyon is a strong believer in self-examinations to help prevent the spread of breast cancer. “I know that mammograms are important, but self-exams are very important because in more than one instance mammograms missed what I found through self-examination,” she said.

Besides self-examination, Runyon also encourages family support. “Cancer brings you together as a family and makes you appreciate life so much more. You must keep a positive attitude, and support from your family helps a lot,” she said.

Juanita Hedrick, a Fairmont job coach who takes students to job sites so they can volunteer and learn job skills, also learned the value of self-examination. She felt a lump while doing a self-examination in the shower one day and went to the doctor. She was diagnosed with breast cancer at just 39 years old. “I wasn’t ready to leave my family yet, so I took on a fight mode and prayed a lot,” she said.

After fighting through the disease, Hedrick overcame it and now her cancer is in remission. But she gives a piece of advice to everyone about breast cancer: “Early detection is crucial. Follow your doctor’s advice; it makes all the difference in the world.”

Fairmont’s involved in raising awareness

Fairmont’s biggest event for raising breast cancer awareness is the Volley for the Cure volleyball game, which this year was on Sept. 28 against Beavercreek. The girls won the game three matches to two from Beavercreek.

“About three to five years ago the Ohio High School Volleyball Coaches’ Association decided to have Volley for the Cure games to raise money for the Susan G. Komen Association,” Fairmont Volleyball Coach Bill Buirley said. The Susan G. Komen Association is the global leader of the breast cancer movement, raising more money than any other breast cancer awareness organization.

Besides raising money, at this game, everyone wears pink, the players play with a pink ball, and speeches are given to educate the players and audience of the risks of breast cancer and the ways to help prevent obtaining the disease.

Fairmont doesn’t hold many more events to raise breast cancer awareness. “I think there should be more awareness, especially among high school kids, because it doesn’t just affect older people. Everyone is at risk,” Buirley said.

Should I worry about developing breast cancer?

Everyone is at risk for developing breast cancer. It may be more prominent in older women, but it can happen at any age.

“I was 45. No one expects to get breast cancer at 45. They expect to get it much later so it was a huge shock” said Barnswell. “A lot of times people have the opinion that ‘It will never happen to me’ or ‘I’m too young.’ But both of these statements are foolish. Bad things do happen to good people and it can happen to anyone.”

This goes for men too. Hundreds of men die each year and thousands more are diagnosed with breast cancer. It’s very important for men to self-examine for lumps and to go to the doctor if there are any strange changes in the breast as well.

The disease may sound scary, but experts are sure that as long as funding for research continues and people keep getting mammograms and self-examining, then one day breast cancer will be less of a worry. Barnswell gives a great piece of advice to everyone in regard to dealing with the disease: “Nobody lives forever and you never know. Live one day at a time, and be grateful for what you have.”