How About We Have a Cancer UNawareness Month? How about a HAM for the world?



First off, let me tell you I was diagnosed and treated for throat cancer in 2013, so I am not talking out of school. You can read about my cancer dance in a book which is for sale here: Otter Was A Beagle-ish Dog. Having danced that dance gives me the latitude to discuss the potential of devoting a month to being more UNaware of cancer.

Actually, this concept will work for pretty much any DISease you want to use to fill in the blank. But my target today is cancer.

All due respect - I really think we are aware of cancer - breast cancer, testicular cancer, skin cancer, cancer cancer and every other cancer. We got it. The disease is out there and whacking people willy nilly.

I work, and will soon live in, Lowell, Michigan,  a small town that has elevated cancer awareness to a new level. Our high school football coach created The Pink Arrow Project, which has done a HUGE amount for folks and families fighting cancer in our little slice of The Mitten. That is why we are the only town of our size to have a Gilda's Club. Google Pink Arrow Project and you can read ALL THIS.  The Pink Arrow Project has been modeled and duplicated all over Michigan and the entire country. Bravo. Molto Bravo.

I appreciate Pink Arrow immensely, never thought I would benefit from it, but I did. Search for "throat cancer" on this blog, (Throat Cancer) and you can read about my adventure.

Now that I have paid not only my dues but my due respect to the Awareness Effort in general and specifically in my neck of the woods, I still want to make my point. How about we put aside the effort on behalf of disease and instead have a Health Awareness Month? Spend an entire month creating and promoting all the great things we can do to INCREASE our health and maximize the quality of life we can enjoy on our planet. Clever folks can come up with a logo - a slogan. Shoot, the acronym HAM (Health Awareness Month) screams all kinds of potential to me - since I am a wee bit of a ham my own self. Sure, we can come up with an alternative for all the vegans, vegetarians, and devout Muslims n Jews who might not want to associate with HAM - but you get my drift, right?

(Actually, they might have fun promoting a HAM we can all ingest........) 

HAM would not have a root of fear - in fact my goal as the main ham promoting HAM would be to do my maximum best to keep fear way the hell away from our month of celebrating, documenting, promoting, and shouting from the roof tops about health, healthiness, and healthy activity. Our root motivation will be joy, happiness, sunshine and love.

For those of you ready to kick my healthy ass, let me reference one example. In fact, this example is what solidified the concept of HAM in my brain pan. God bless Angelina Jolie. Because doctors discovered a genetic mutation, BRCA1, in her body that MIGHT indicate an increased risk in her chances of breast cancer, she had both of her breasts removed. She later had her ovaries removed. I certainly respect her decision to do what she did with her body. It is her body after all.

That being said, the downside of all this BRCA-awareness is that lot of women all over the world followed her lead. The science of the BRCA mutation thing leading to cancer is NOT a settled debate by any means. Here is part of what the folks at Mayo Clinic say on their website:

"A BRCA gene test determines whether you carry an inherited BRCA mutation. If you do, your result is positive and your doctor can help you understand your cancer risk. If you don't have a mutation, this is considered a negative result. However, you may learn you have a gene variant that doctors aren't sure about. It may or may not be associated with an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer. This result is known as a variant of uncertain significance." (read the rest here)

I draw your attention to "it may or may not be associated with an increased risk". According to Mayo it may be an indicator or it MIGHT NOT BE. Other experts put the increased risk at any number of places as is indicated by these paragraphs from the National Cancer Institute Website:
"Breast cancer: About 12 percent of women in the general population will develop breast cancer sometime during their lives (4). By contrast, according to the most recent estimates, 55 to 65 percent of women who inherit a harmful BRCA1 mutation and around 45 percent of women who inherit a harmful BRCA2 mutation will develop breast cancer by age 70 years (56).
Ovarian cancer: About 1.3 percent of women in the general population will develop ovarian cancer sometime during their lives (4). By contrast, according to the most recent estimates, 39 percent of women who inherit a harmful BRCA1 mutation (56) and 11 to 17 percent of women who inherit a harmful BRCA2mutation will develop ovarian cancer by age 70 years (56)." (read it all here.)

There appears to be anywhere from a "maybe" to a 65% chance of the genetic mutation being a factor in breast cancer. If we split maybe and 65% we would be at 32.5% - how about we err on the generous side and go 50/50 for the sake of discussion. Am I saying AJ did a bad thing by removing her breasts and later ovaries because of a 50/50 chance? Nope - her body, her choice.

What I do lament is the fact that lots of women all over the world followed her lead. When you read the mountains of articles on her decision and the subject in general the overwhelming amount of it emphasizes the 50% chance of actually getting the cancer when in theory at least, there should be an equal number of articles emphasizing the 50% of ladies for whom the BRCA INDICATES NOTHING TO BE AFRAID OF. (Never mind places like Mayo who use the words "may or may not" when discussing BRCA.)

Is the glass half empty? Is it half full? Should you really remove parts of your body based on a) the well meaning decision of a celebrity and b) scientific evidence that at worst gives you a 50/50 chance? My thinking is that if we have a bunch of HAMs over the coming years, people might move in the direction of half full view of the glass of life.

How about we take a month to focus solely on the half full part of the glass? How about we take a month to focus our attention, words, writing, t-shirts, slogans, logos, corporate sponsor ships, walk-a-thons, etc. etc. etc. on the potential of being healthy?

HAM for everybody! 


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