Battling Breast Cancer

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. For me it’s a month of celebrating the survival of my dearest friend Becky Sellers, as well as my friend and mentor Sonia Kashuk. It is also a month of remembering and honoring my mother and my aunt, who lost their fight with breast cancer. It’s not that I don’t think about these people all year long, but this year is especially significant because over the past year, Becky was diagnosed and treated.

This month, there are fundraisers and events going on everywhere. I just received an email from Delta airlines with an offer to join Delta Sky Club, where 10 percent will be donated to The Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

There is the American Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast Cancer on October 13 at Lake Nokomis. The Gopher football home game Saturday, October 4 against Indiana will be dedicated to breast cancer awareness. The Twin Cities Breast Cancer Awareness Conference will be on October 11 at the Minneapolis Convention Center. There is Saddle Up for a Cure on October 7 at Rebecca Park Reserve, hosted by Minnesota Equestrienne Inc. (Hikers welcome!) You can go online to the Pink Ribbon Shop and shop for all sorts of items, and proceeds will go to The Pink Ribbon Shop Fund For Breast Cancer Research.

I am donating my services to an event this week—Lunch on the Law—benefiting the Virginia Piper Breast Center’s Patient Assistance Program. There are myriad ways to raise money and raise awareness.

I want to propose another way to make a difference, without taking away from participating in fundraising events and purchasing products. Look around and lend strength to someone who is carrying on the fight against cancer right now. With cancer rates for women in the U.S. at about 12 percent, it is very likely there is someone close by that could use some support. I spoke to my friend Becky and asked her what helped her and here are some of her thoughts:

1. Food delivery. This makes a huge difference, especially for a woman who is continuing to work through her treatment. Becky said it was such a relief to feel her family was cared for and she could actually use the time that it would take to put together a meal to spend quality time with her loved ones. Check out to organize meals.

2. Child care. Just offering to take the kids for the afternoon or day allows someone going through treatment to get a little “me” time, especially on those days when chemo really kicks your butt.

3. Rides to and from chemo, and even offering to stay during chemo. Here is an area where everyone is going to have different needs—and those needs may change. If you are offering to stay with them, don’t be offended if the offer is refused. But the drop off and pick up are crucial.

4. Hair and makeup services. When a woman is going through chemo, she doesn’t stop being a woman. We all want to feel pretty and empowered. So here are some thoughts on what was helpful for Becky:

A good short haircut. Everyone has or knows a hairdresser. Becky’s friend arranged to have a stylist come to Becky’s home and give her a short haircut in preparation for chemotherapy (and the eventual hair loss). Once she was used to the shorter hair, she decided she wanted to shave her head because she wanted to choose what was going to happen to her hair. Here is where I came in—I offered to shave her head. Her family invited her friends and we all celebrated and supported her in taking control. We laughed, we cried, and she was prepared.

The other thing that was important was a makeup lesson. Again, with this idea of being prepared and taking control. I taught Becky what to do when her eyebrows fell out and how to make her skin look good (even when she felt a little green). I know you might be thinking I can’t do this for someone, but you can arrange it for someone.

5. Hats, scarves, and wigs. Becky went through chemo during the winter and she didn’t realize how cold she would get without hair. During her head-shaving celebration, many friends brought hats and scarves (she decided to forgo wigs). She said the hats made a world of difference. She had a cotton one by her bed, a warm one in the kitchen, and a soft one for when she had stubble. Perhaps in a way, the hats cocooned her with our thoughts and prayers. The Piper Breast Center has an area with free hats, scarves, and wigs for women going through treatment, and I am sure they could always use more.

6. Cleaning service. This one is self explanatory.

7. Anonymous checking account (where family and friends can donate). This is particularly powerful because as the saying goes, there is strength in numbers. Ten or 20 dollars doesn’t seem like much, but multiplied by 10 or 20 or 100 can really make a difference. And for someone dealing with cancer, there are all kinds of additional needs and expenses that may not be covered by insurance.

So go ahead and Walk for the Cure, raise money for education, research, and treatment. Buy some pink ribbon merchandise and wear it proudly to support and honor the women in your life. Do all of this, but don’t forget it’s the small acts of kindness that are sometimes the most valuable.