Boobs, Bras, Bridges and Breasts

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By Kay Helbling

Cancer awareness has become so popular the cause has become a novelty. Is this good or bad? Some say promotions have gone so far they show disrespect in making light of the cause. Others say it draws important attention to the still very serious disease and gives survivors a time to celebrate— a time to share hope with those who are still fighting. Even through all the awareness, research, and funding, breast cancer is still the leading cancer among American women and second only to lung cancer in cancer deaths.

Standing unflinchingly to any controversy, in October, women all across the U.S. again held hands in rallies, art exhibits, ads, runs, and even spanning bridges to spread their message for Breast Cancer Awareness. Some of the most unique events included one held in our Salem, Oregon. At their Artfull Brasserie, 33 art bras were on display with such titles as “American Girls” and “Libra-ra-she”.

As the Statesman Journal so aptly put it, what they lacked in functionality they made up for in gorgeous, intricate, and endearing design.  The event not only raised awareness, but also money, in the auctioning of the art.

The most controversial promotion this season was the “Save the Boobs” advertisement which showed a very well-endowed young girl walking in her bikini, pool-side. Others used less controversial, but still visually effective ways to get their point across. In the “Bras across the Bridges” campaign, women across the U.S. formed chains of their underwear in a show of solidarity. Linking hand-to-hand-bra-to-bra, they made a visual statement of power and control over their lives.

Whatever your opinion, you have to admire the determination of these survivors as they battle for their sisters in the cause. They are making a difference in the Fight for a Cure with funding that has opened the doors to new technologies. A new tissue sampling technique helps women determine the likelihood of their cancer’s returning so they can better choose to have chemotherapy as part of their treatment. Kate Newgard, an Oregon nurse who helps breast cancer patients decide how they will treat their disease, says treatments and timing has changed a lot. New imaging technologies are able to help radiologists identify and distinguish malignant from normal cells.  But these imaging devices are expensive.

More than two million women currently living in the U.S. have been diagnosed and treated for breast cancer. An estimated 192,370 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to occur among women in the U.S. in 2009. An estimated 40,170 women will die. An estimated 1,910 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and an estimated 440 will die in 2009.

In Oregon, each week, 51 women are diagnosed with breast cancer and 9 will die from the disease. It is estimated that in Washington, each week 86 women are diagnosed with the disease and about 15 will die. Funds raised do save lives, but the fight is long from over. This is true in Oregon and Washington more than elsewhere, since, although the specific reason is unknown, we have some of the highest breast cancer rates in the country.

Kay was an insurance adjuster and executive for 15 years, a small business owner, and a teacher for ten.  But, her most fulfilling work has been as a mother of her two boys. She is now enjoying an empty nest with her best friend—her husband.