October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and every year I find myself compelled to write a column about it.
It may seem redundant to talk about the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walks in Central Pennsylvania, and the way local, regional and national sports teams come together in an effort to raise money and awareness in the battle against the disease. But the American Cancer Society reports that more than one-quarter-of-a-million women have been diagnosed with invasive breast cancer so far in 2012. So until those staggering statistics become not-so-staggering and much less scary, this month will continue to command national attention in the athletic arenas of the United States.
It's hard to miss the breast cancer initiatives on the huge stage of the NFL. Players all around the league are sporting pink shoes, socks, towels, wrist bands, and even pink-trimmed jerseys and pants. Referees wear pink whistles around their necks, and pink ribbons are painted on many of the fields. Much of the themed gear will be put up for auction online. No question, the NFL's commitment to raising awareness is compelling, though some have criticized the percentage of the proceeds that are actually donated to the cause.
Around the track, several NASCAR drivers have been touched by cancer, like Elliot Sadler who's mother battled the disease. Sadler's is just one of the cars that is sporting a pink paint scheme in the month of October. Last week's race at Charlotte also featured a survivors' ceremony, pink-clad fans, and a pink trophy.
Locally, many high school teams sponsor "pink" events, even golfers get into the spirit with the "Pink on the Links" tournament. It seems like everywhere we go, there is a chance to take part in a breast-cancer-fighting event, or an opportunity to make a donation.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month has become part of our October culture, like baseball playoffs and Halloween. Men wearing pink is now commonplace, and in fact trendy. The pink movement has become so popular, it's sometimes easy to forget just why it's so important.
It is estimated that breast cancer will strike one in every eight women in the U.S. Imagine the rosters of our local sports teams, and count off eight athletes at a time, knowing how many of them will likely face this devastating diagnosis. But the disease impacts more than just the patient, and hits more than just women.
Entire families are stricken with the fear that comes with learning your mom, grandmother, wife, sister, father or brother has breast cancer.
Treatments and their its side effects are just the beginning of the many challenges that become part of a "new normal" as loved ones, friends, and communities offer their support.
Wearing pink is cool. Taking part in pink events is fun. But It's also vital in the effort to battle cancer through research and support programs. It's one victory we have to win.
Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.