I suppose that some of you might be wondering why I have decided to write this whole entry in pink today. Well, let’s just say that a blog entry that I did a couple of days ago inspired the subject of today’s blog (as well as the colour of the font).
A couple of days ago, I ended up doing a blog entry on actress, author, and businesswoman Suzanne Somers, and one of the things that I talked about in that blog entry was the fact that she is a survivor of breast cancer.
And, I also brought up the fact that October is “Breast Cancer Awareness Month”.
This year marks the twenty-seventh edition of “Breast Cancer Awareness Month”. It was started back in 1985 as a joint partnership between the American Cancer Society and the pharmaceutical division of Imperial Chemical Industries (now known as AstraZeneca, a drug company that manufactures several drugs used to treat breast cancer). The reason behind the formation of the event was to educate people on the importance of mammograms as the number one weapon in the fight against breast cancer. In a lot of cases, early detection can mean a greater chance of remission.
It was in the autumn of 1991 that the national symbol for breast cancer awareness – the pink ribbon – was introduced by the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Members of the foundation handed out miniature pink ribbons to the participants of the New York race for breast cancer survivors. It would take another couple of years before the pink ribbon was universally recognized as the official symbol for breast cancer awareness, as the late Evelyn Lauder (the daughter-in-law of cosmetics company founder Estee Lauder) used the symbol for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation upon its creation in 1993.
As of 2012, there are several fundraising events that take place all for the purpose of raising money for breast cancer awareness. The most recognized event is the “Race for the Cure”, which began in 1983 in Dallas, Texas. Twenty-nine years ago, the first annual event attracted a modest 800 people. By the early 2000s, the number of participants exceeded 1.3 million people in over one hundred American cities! Similar races are also held in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, Puerto Rico, and the Netherlands.
There is also a biking event known as the “Ride to Empower”, in which breast cancer survivors ride their bikes to raise money for the Breast Cancer Network of Strength.
And Estee Lauder cosmetics has taken part in a campaign that takes global landmarks all over the world and illuminates them in pink lighting to raise awareness for breast cancer research. Some of these landmarks have included New York’s Empire State Building, Sydney, Australia’s Harbour Bridge, the Tokyo Tower, and Niagara Falls.
And many workplaces during the month of October have “Pink Days”, in which people can wear pink to work to promote the cause. I know that I myself will be rocking the light pink polo shirt that I have in my closet today. And, yes, real men DO wear pink.
In fact you might be surprised to know that while most people diagnosed with breast cancer are female, there are a small amount of men that can develop the disease as well. And yes, there are groups out there for men who have survived breast cancer which include “Out of the Shadow of Pink”, and “The Brandon Greening Foundation for Breast Cancer in Men”.
So, I thought that in the spirit of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I would spotlight a few famous faces who fought breast cancer and won...as well as remembering those whose lives were cut way too short by the illness. And the reason why I wanted to do this was to show people who might be reading this, and who might be battling breast cancer at this moment that there is hope out there, and that things can get better. I certainly hope that these stories inspire you.
CHRISTINA APPLEGATE, 40
Everyone remembers Christina Applegate best for her role as the busty, yet dumber than a bag of rocks Kelly Bundy on “Married...With Children”. But in the summer of 2008, it was reported in People Magazine that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Fortunately for Christina, the cancer was caught early through a doctor-ordered MRI, and it was not considered to be life-threatening (reiterating the message to get screened whether you need it or not). Just a couple of weeks after the news was reported, Christina underwent a double mastectomy in order to remove the cancer. The treatment worked, and she has been cancer-free ever since. Christina wasn’t the only breast cancer survivor in her family. Her mother, Nancy Lee Priddy is also a breast cancer survivor. Since her initial diagnosis, Christina Applegate appeared in the 2008 television special “Stand Up To Cancer”, and one year later founded the “Right Action for Women” organization, which is dedicated to breast cancer screening for women, with particular emphasis on the MRI procedure with was key in helping her treat and beat breast cancer. Way to go, Christina!
SALLY DYNEVOR, 49Diagnosed: 2009
I imagine that many of you probably don’t recognize the name, but many of you will likely recognize the face. If you happen to live in the United Kingdom, Canada, or anywhere else that “Coronation Street” is filmed, you will instantly recognize her as Sally Webster, the character that Sally Dynevor has played on the long running British serial since January 1986. And Sally Dynevor’s story is an interesting one. In September 2009, Dynevor was told by producers that she would be entering a storyline in which her character would end up being diagnosed with breast cancer. Dynevor was excited about the storyline idea. She had been active in raising money for breast cancer research for years prior, and even underwent screening for the disease herself for a number of years. So, imagine the shock Dynevor must have felt when she ended up being diagnosed for real while she was filming the storyline in which the character of Sally Webster discovered she had cancer too! In this case, it was life imitating art, but that storyline also helped save Dynevor’s life! She took six months away from filming to combat the disease, but returned in July 2010 and has been on the show ever since. Oh, and just so you know, as of right now, both Sally’s are doing well physically.
OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN, 64Diagnosed: 1992
Olivia Newton-John has had a career that most women could only dream of. With a singing career spawning Top 10 hits throughout the 1970s and 1980s and her iconic role as Sandy in “Grease”, Olivia was on top of the world. And by the early 1990s, Olivia was well on her way to launching a comeback of sorts with a new greatest hits collection and planning the early stages of a new tour. But Olivia was soon hit with a double whammy...the death of her father, and the revelation that she had breast cancer. Olivia underwent treatment for the disease and has been in remission since, but the initial diagnosis helped Olivia become a well known figure in the fight against breast cancer. She released an album in 1994 entitled “Gaia: One Woman’s Journey”, which documented her entire ordeal through song, and eleven years later released another album, “Stronger Than Before”, which featured a song based on the Maya Angelou poem, “Phenomenal Woman”. This song was made extra special by the fact that it included guest vocals from other cancer survivors including Diahann Carroll, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Delta Goodrem, Amy Holland, Patti LaBelle, and Mindy Smith. She has since promoted the breast self-examination product, the Liv-Kit, helped establish the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre in Melbourne, Australia, and has consistently made television and press appearances promoting the cause over the last twenty years.
KYLIE MINOGUE, 44Diagnosed: 2005
Aussie pop singer Kylie Minogue is well known for being incredibly open and honest with every single one of her fans, which makes her survival story all that more inspiring. She always made sure that her fans knew exactly what was happening with the treatments because she didn’t want them to worry. She was photographed after chemotherapy and radiation treatments after her hair had fallen out, and while she was disappointed over having to postpone her Showgirl tour, she knew she had to if she was to bounce back from cancer. Just eighteen months later, Kylie resumed her tour in Sydney, Australia...the first concert she would perform since being diagnosed. It didn’t matter that Kylie was still a bit weak from the cancer treatments...she just wanted to go out there and say thank you to all of the fans who supported her and sent her their best well-wishes while she recovered. The costume changes took a lot longer, and the dance routines were reworked so that Kylie would not tire out as easily. Here’s a clip of her performing below.
And keep in mind that this was just 18 months after her diagnosis!!! But everyone has their strength and support systems...and I believe that Kylie’s love for her fans and their mutual respect for her helped her kick cancer to the curb. I for one respect the hell out of her for fighting cancer with such dignity and class.
ANN JILLIAN, 62Diagnosed: 1985
Ann Jillian was probably one of the first high-profile cases of breast cancer that I can remember hearing about. While I was only a small fry when she was diagnosed, I remember it being all over the news for a number of years, even inspiring a made for television movie. What made Ann’s case stand out was her relatively young age. She was only thirty-five when she received the diagnosis (only a year younger than Christina Applegate when she was diagnosed). At the time, she had just re-signed to a show that was being brought back after a three year hiatus, “It’s A Living”, and she became one of the 1980s most vocal and passionate speakers on breast cancer and its prevention. She is currently cancer free and now spends her days working as a motivational speaker and breast cancer advocate.
RICHARD ROUNDTREE, 70Diagnosed: 1993
Richard Roundtree made a name for himself playing Detective John Shaft in the 1971 feature film “Shaft”, and has been working steadily ever since. But in 1993, he was diagnosed as having the rare male breast cancer. He underwent a double mastectomy as well as chemotherapy to get rid of the cancer, and he has emerged cancer free ever since. The reason I chose to feature him in this spotlight was for two reasons. One, he is a fairly well-known actor that I am hoping quite a few people know, and secondly, it is to showcase that men should consider getting screened for the disease as well as women, because while it is rare, it isn’t impossible to get.
There are many other famous faces that I could spotlight in this blog entry, but I don’t have a whole lot of space. But I will list their names. Anastasia, Meredith Baxter, Sheryl Crow, Ruby Dee, Jill Eikenberry, Marianne Faithfull, Edie Falco, Jane Fonda, Dorothy Hamill, Julie Harris, Kate Jackson, Hoda Kotb, Cynthia Nixon, Sandra Day O’Connor, Cokie Roberts, Robin Roberts, Ann Romney, Jennifer Saunders, Carly Simon, Jaclyn Smith, Maggie Smith, Gloria Steinem, Mindy Sterling, Shirley Temple Black, Maura Tierney, and Marcia Wallace have all been diagnosed with breast cancer and lived to tell the tale.
Sadly, not everyone manages to beat breast cancer, and I wish to extend this note of condolence to those of you who have lost a mother, a sister, a spouse, a friend, a grandparent, or anyone else to this terrible disease. My heart is with all of you.
In closing, I will feature another song by another breast cancer survivor, Melissa Etheridge. After her October 2004 diagnosis, Melissa Etheridge fought the battle hard, and won it, appearing just months later at the 2005 Grammy Awards to perform a tribute to the late Janis Joplin. And in 2005, Etheridge released this song...a song that is really very appropriate for today.
October is “Breast Cancer Awareness Month”. Take the time, and get a mammogram. You never know, it could end up being the decision that saves your life.