Journaling Breast Cancer Awareness Month


October is many things, including the anniversary of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Although breast cancer awareness should be promoted all year round, this month tends to focus on an intense campaign to promote awareness, education and empowerment to women of all ages. Given my background as an educator and registered nurse, I cannot help, but to share some reminders and statistics.

Statistics show that one in eight women will get breast cancer at some point during their lifetime. Here are statistics broken down in age:

Age 30 to39  – 1 in 233

Age 40 to 49 – 1 in 69

Age 50 to 59 – 1 in 38

Age 60 to 69 – 1 in 27

For more information, check out this website:

Personally, eight years have already passed since my diagnosis with breast cancer and I have to say that I feel better than ever. Because I feel so good I want to urge women over the age of forty to get annual mammograms. The reason I am still here today is because mine saved my life. My type of cancer, called DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ) is sometimes called, ‘precancer,’ and is only detected on mammograms.

Coincidentally, this month the Mayo Clinic Women’s Health Source Newsletter featured an article, entitled, “Ductal Carcinoma: A Highly Treatable Breast Cancer.” The article says that before mammograms very few women were diagnosed with DCIS and now more than 62,000 cases are diagnosed yearly, which also accounts for about 20 percent of all new cases of breast cancer diagnosed each year. The good news is that its treatment is extremely successful with a 10-year survival rate of almost 100 percent.

DCIS occurs when abnormal cells multiply and form a tumor or growth in the mammary duct.  The first sign is the growth of calcium deposits (calcifications) which on a mammogram look like clusters of white spots, often confused with talcum powder. In general, DCIS is not life-threatening, but if not treated early, it can progress into invasive cancer. The biggest challenge with this type of cancer is deciding on its treatment. Fortunately due to the diligence of my fabulous doctors, mine saved my life.

Ultimately  we are all responsible for our own health and the more  we understand about our own bodies, the better we can take care of ourselves and maintain a path of health. For me, one of the most beneficial paths to my own health was writing about my experience in my forthcoming memoir Healing With Words: A Writer’s Cancer Story, which will be out in the Summer of 2010, just before next year’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Here’s one poem from that book:

To My Daughters

You were the first I thought of

when diagnosed with what

strikes one in eight women.

It was too soon to leave you,

but I thought it a good sign

that none of us were born

under its pestilent zodiac.

I stared at the stars and wished upon

each one that you’d never wake up

as I did this morning to one real breast

and one fake one; but that the memories

you carry will be only sweet ones,

and then I remembered you had your

early traumas of being born too soon,

and losing a beloved grandpa too young

and then I had this urge to show you

the scars on the same breast

you cuddled as babies, but then wondered

why you’d want to see my imperfections

and perhaps your destiny.

I caved in and showed you anyway,

hoping you’d learn to be careful, as

if it really mattered, because your grandpa

used to say when your time’s up, it’s up.

May he always watch over you.


5 Responses to “Journaling Breast Cancer Awareness Month”

  1. 1 Gail Kearns October 19, 2009 at 11:18 am

    Dear Diana,

    Thank you for this! My sister-in-law was touched by breast cancer under the age of 30 … more than ten years ago. Thankfully, she had a great team of doctors and to this day is cancer-free. She also takes really good care of herself and lives a healthy lifestyle. Her priorities have changed as well. I’m looking forward to reading your new book when it comes out!


  2. 2 Shirley Budhos October 19, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    Thanks, Diana,

    This is the month for my annual mammogram, and I have an LSI, and have been monitored for many years. My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at 70, had the Halstead surgery with no chemo or complications, and passed the 5 year mark, and died of “natural causes” at 75. Through the years, I’ve had many biopsies, but at my age (80 last month), it’s a wonder that I’m still here.

    And, of course, when I got my news, immediately I thought of my daughter and granddaughter.

    Shirley Budhos

  3. 3 Nanacy G October 20, 2009 at 10:27 am

    I was very moved to read your blog on your breast cancer and especially your poem to your daughter.
    Two days ago my sister in law went in for what was supposed to be a lumpectomy only to awake with no breasts or lymph nodes and an aggressive course of chemo and radiation to start in a month. Since her films had looked so benign it was all the more of a blow. So I was just reeling from this news when your e-mail came… God bless. Keep writing.
    Nancy G

  4. 4 KB Walker October 24, 2009 at 1:07 am

    You might be interested in reading my memoir, A Life Less Lost. As I’m sure you’re aware, cancer doesn’t only affect the person who has the disease. At fifteen, my son was diagnosed with cancer. At one point, we were told to think carefully about how we would wish to spend what time we might have left with him. But he survived against the odds (12 cancer-free years and counting).

  5. 5 Anna Edmondson October 25, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    Thanks for your blog. I too had my annual mammogram last week, as I do every October. My mother had breast cancer, diagnosed in her mid-60’s, the same kind you had, and she want through a difficult but relatively quick period of treatment and recovery. While I tend to avoid ‘cancer literature’ in general for various reasons, I am grateful for this particular post which combines personal memoir with practical information.

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Quote of the Week

"A writer uses a journal to try out the new step in front of the mirror."

~Mary Gordon

About Me

I am a memoirist, essayist, poet and teacher whose passion is keeping a notebook. My notebook is my muse and my alter ego. It contains personal snippets of my life and observations from the world around me. Diarist Anaïs Nin has been a great source of inspiration for me. My hobbies include writing, writing and more writing, but when I have extra time, I enjoy reading, walking, hiking, yoga, working out, cooking and hanging out with my family and Maltese Poodle, Spunky. In order not to become ensconced by the glare of my computer screen, I also teach in the UCLA Extension Writers' Program and in various conferences and festivals around the country. My pleasure comes from sharing my joy of journaling with professional writers and anyone interested in writing.

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