Month more than just Halloween

Brady C. Mallory

Brady C. Mallory

When October arrives, we think about ghosts, bite-sized candy bars and everything that pertains to Halloween. For the last seven years, I have thought about breast cancer. The month of October is a fantastic period that educates America about breast cancer awareness. I am serious when I say that nothing makes me happier than education on this topic and the advocating of mammograms and self-exams.

Breast cancer is a cancer that starts in the cells of the breast in women and men. Worldwide, breast cancer is the second most common type of cancer after lung cancer (10.4% of all cancer incidence, both sexes counted) and the fifth most common cause of cancer death. In 2005, breast cancer caused 502,000 deaths worldwide (7% of cancer deaths; almost 1% of all deaths).

Seven years ago I had an awakening that I was not expecting. I remember when my mother, my closest friend, told me at the age of 13 that she had type one, bordering type two, breast cancer. Cancer was a foreign stranger that my two older sisters, father and I had heard about but never considered would knock at our door. Time stopped, and at that moment, I could feel the beautiful stillness of the world. The balance of life became clear, and every minute became a precious blessing.

After the world started turning again, I soon learned everything about this ugly disease. My mother had a lumpectomy, five rounds of chemotherapy and radiation five days a week for about five months. I was able to go with my mother to nearly all of her radiation treatments, and I saw something in her that I may not have otherwise seen. She was stronger than anyone I had ever seen, and though she lost her hair, she never lost her courage or grace. I have never met a better person than my mother, and I thank God daily for his plan for her. My mother is in fantastic health now and is active in promoting breast cancer awareness.

Celebrate the month of October by scheduling a mammogram at the local hospital, because early detection is the best way to stop breast cancer while it is still in the early stages. Mammograms are quick, relatively low in cost, and though they may be slightly uncomfortable, they can find cancer that is the size of a small bead. Stage is the most important, as it takes into consideration size, local involvement, lymph node status and whether metastatic disease is present. The higher the stage at diagnosis, the worse the prognosis. Younger women tend to have a poorer prognosis than post-menopausal women due to several factors. Their breasts are active with their cycles, they may be nursing infants and they may be unaware of changes in their breasts. Therefore, younger women are usually at a more advanced stage when diagnosed.

My mom believes breast cancer was a journey, a divine calling, if you will. She found the lesson in her story and has been able to become a confidante for women who are just starting their own journeys. Author Rob Bell makes an astute observation when he says, “It is as if the smallest amount of light is infinitely more powerful than massive amounts of dark.” Which is why for the past seven years I have been involved with my hometown’s Relay for Life, and I even delivered a speech at the one held in August.

I was also able to run the Susan G. Komen race for the cure. I cannot describe what it means to watch thousands of people joining in to fight for one cause. I truly love these events, but I want them to become obsolete in the future. I want our mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, wives, girlfriends, daughters and friends to never have to worry about what a windy day could do to the wig that sits atop a bald head. I want children to grow up with two parents and without ever knowing what cancer means. Life is far too important to let cancer get in the way. Let this day in October be the day you stand up and make a change in honor of every woman who has survived cancer, and every woman who bravely lost her battle.

In case you were wondering what to do, the Avera Brookings Medical Clinic’s number is (605) 697-9500, and visit