Beyond Pink Ribbons and Yellow Wrist Bands

Posted November 20, 2010 by jimhigley

I had an interesting, if not eye-opening, last few days. Two of those days I spent with Jonny Imerman, founder of Imerman Angels 1-on-1 Cancer Support making presentations to the senior class at Loyola Academy. My youngest son happens to be a freshman there.

Jonny’s a regular part of Loyola’s Health and Awareness program. The faculty loves him. As do the kids. That’s largely due to the fact that he lays the cancer cards on the table in a very real, human way. He covers the basics of what cancer is, various treatments, the emotional side of it and – most importantly – cancers that these young adults need to be particularly aware of.

The boys heard the nuts and bolts of testicular cancer (see my blog of a few days ago titled Play Ball) while the girls heard more details on breast cancer, including how to do a self-exam (see the end of this blog for some details on performing a breast self-exam). If you’re thinking two guys with shaved heads talking about breast self-exams to a bunch of 18-year-old girls seems awkward, you’re totally wrong.

Truth is, those two days of presentations helped me realize how hungry our young sons and daughters are for real, tangible information about this disease. They live in a world of pink ribbons, yellow rubber wristbands, and slick marketing campaigns. They know Lance Armstrong is a testicular cancer survivor. But most of them really don’t know the basics.

I’m a prostate cancer survivor. My kids have grown up with cancer. But these last few days have helped me realize how little I’ve talked to my own children about the things they need to know.

This Thanksgiving, in between the cooking, the errands, the raking and football, I’m going to make sure my three children get something from me that is long overdue. The boys are going to get a refresher course on testicular cancer (the number one cancer in guys ages 15 – 35) and my daughter’s going to hear her old dad’s reminder about breast care health.

Then we can eat.

A Few Basics on Breast Self-Exams
Your physician may recommend modifications to this, so it’s suggested all women review their own self-exam practices with him/her. 
In general, a good place for a self-exam is in the shower. The heat softens the skin and makes it easier to feel.
Starting with the index and middle finger of your right hand, examine your left breast using up-and-down strokes (vertical) making sure you cover/examine the entire breast from side to side. Use enough pressure to feel the underlying tissue. In addition, you can then examine your entire left breast using those same two fingers, by using small circular motions over the entire surface of the breast. 
To examine the right breast, use the index and middle fingers of the left hand and follow the same steps as above.
When examining, you are looking for lumps, hardness, swelling or discomfort.
A routine self-exam every 2-4 weeks should only take a couple of minutes and teaches our daughters important habits in being aware of their own body. It has the potential to save their life.
Learn more about breast cancerLearn more about Imerman Angels