It’s October and we are in full swing Breast Cancer Awareness Month. For me, my colleagues and members of our community, it is a month where we share a different kind of awareness – we are awaking to the absence of others. Deep beneath a sea of campaigns, cause marketing, events, fundraisers and shades of pink is the reality that this disease still takes the lives of our friends, our mothers, our sisters, our cousins and our daughters. We need to be reminded of the powerful women we’ve lost that didn’t just advocate for MBC awareness – they created it through their stories of love and struggle.
Two years ago, at the Advanced Breast Cancer Conference in Lisbon (ABC4), we heard the news that the formidable MBC advocate Beth Caldwell had died. It prompted me to grab the mic during the Q&A to ask those in attendance for a moment of silence to honour Beth. After all, women like Beth were the reason we were there. Also, Beth devoted her life to living out loud and subsequently dying out loud. For me, her absence needed to be felt out loud too, and it was. You could hear a pin drop in that silence…At that moment, the voices and stories of women with MBC we’ve lost took centre stage, and something in me felt better.
Over the last five years, the breast cancer movement has come to life because of women like Beth who were brave enough to share their truths about living with this incurable disease. The alienation from the early-stage survivors, the pain and the suffering, the betrayal from their bodies, and the fear that they would be forced to leave this world when they had so much living to do.
I know that because of their fearlessness there will be others who continue to pass the torch, symbolizing a continued legacy of conviction and truth-telling in the breast cancer community.
For now, let’s take a moment to pause, to remember these women, and hold them close in our hearts as we brave another October and another year of their absence.
P.S. A special thank you to the women in our community who sent us photos of their beloved friends and relatives lost to MBC. We see you and we hold you in our hearts too.
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