Friday, October 1, 2010

A tribute to Breast Cancer survivors

Happy October and Happy Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

I say "happy" because October is the month we celebrate those who survived this horrendous disease and applaud their courage.

Ladies, I salute you. I salute your pain, your courage, your determination, your endurance, your suffering, your strong will, your off days, your good days....

I salute you all, and I salute one of you in particular, my sister Asma.

I am sure that everyone reading this knows at least one person who has had, is fighting or is in remission from breast cancer. And it is these women that we shall celebrate during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, symbolized by the Pink Ribbon.

I am one of these people. Asma is a breast cancer survivor and I dedicate this post and this month to her courage, strength and determination to beat this beast.

You always think it will never happen to you, especially if there is no history of the disease in your family. But cancer knows no age, nationality, religion, state or race... When it strikes, it strikes! And your Tamoxifen-filled life is never the same again.

With Asma in Beirut last November
But, this is a celebration of survival and merriment for Asma, who I could not join in Cannes at that crucial time, and who fought it on her own, with the help of friends and the French health care system. We phoned each other a lot, screamed, shouted, cried, laughed and one way or another got through. And now we are both looking forward to meeting in Beirut in November as we did last year.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM) is an annual international health campaign organized by major breast cancer charities every October to increase awareness of the disease and to raise funds for research into its cause, prevention and cure. AstraZeneca, which manufactures breast cancer drugs Arimidex and Tamoxifen, founded BCAM in 1985. The aim from the start has been to promote mammography as the most effective weapon in the fight against breast cancer. And the Pink Ribbon is an international symbol of Breast Cancer Awareness.

According to the U.S. National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM) website, whose goal is to increase public knowledge since the program began 25 years ago, mammography rates have more than doubled for women age 50 and older and breast cancer deaths have declined.

NBCAM says this is exciting progress, but there are still women who do not take advantage of early detection at all and others who do not get screening mammograms and clinical breast exams at regular intervals. It notes that women age 65 and older are less likely to get mammograms than younger women, even though breast cancer risk increases with age and women below poverty level are less likely than women at higher incomes to have had a mammogram within the past two years.

NBCAM adds: “If all women age 40 and older took advantage of early detection methods – mammography plus clinical breast exam – breast cancer death rates would drop much further, up to 30 percent. The key to mammography screening is that it be done routinely – once is not enough.”

In recognition of the fact that mammography is the best available method of detecting breast changes that may be cancer, long before physical symptoms can be seen or felt, and that breast cancer deaths could decline further if all women age 40 and older received mammograms at regular intervals, I, Micheline Hazou, do hereby proclaim October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I urge all women and their families in Dubai, Beirut and all over the world to get the facts about mammography.

Play it safe, not sorry.

And although this horrendous disease can knock on our door any day of any month, let's celebrate the survivors during October.

I bow to Asma and to all of you ladies.