There is so much going on in our world today. It's quite easy to feel helpless, that our actions won't make an impact on the overwhelming issues we face. But, we can make a difference; sometimes we make an impact that we aren't even aware of. Amelia Earhart said, "A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees."
I know, awareness months are filled with corporate marketing gimmicks or people riding one cause bandwagon for 30 days and then hopping off to join another one. I think we can all agree that we understand the need for businesses to help or at least appear to be helping the community. I'm not a big fan of all the pink that appears in October mainly because I think an equal amount of purple should be out there too. I recognize the pros and cons of awareness months, but in the end, it's about me and what I can do to raise awareness on such critical health and societal issues like breast cancer and domestic violence.
Here are some suggestions on how you can make a difference, no matter how small:
- Know your facts. Knowledge is power and can lead to action. 1 in 3 women have been victims of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime; 1 out of 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. A study of 101 women with breast, endometrial, or ovarian cancer found that a history of violence in these patients was common (48.5%), and the advanced stage of their illness at diagnosis correlated with extent of their history of IPV (read more at Oncology Nurse Advisor).
- Volunteer. There are various organizations that make a direct impact on the lives of people struggling with these issues. Here in our community, Empowerhouse is a prime example. There are also many organizations which make an indirect impact through encouraging young people to engage in healthy, safe relationships. Our willingness to spend time with today's youth can help shape a healthier tomorrow.
- Promote. Yes, wear the ribbons, the t-shirts, anything that might trigger a conversation. Put a purple lightbulb in your porch light - your neighbors will be curious (#purpleporchproject). I have been amazed at the amount of people that have stopped me when I'm wearing one of my breast cancer survivor shirts. I'm pretty sure I convinced a woman at Costco to find an OB/GYN and get checked immediately. Share your knowledge and encourage people to have conversations about these issues (this includes your children when age appropriate).
- Get help. Whether you are concerned for your own health and well-being or a family member's or a friend's, use the resources that are out there. Seeing a physician is a good place to start; there are also support organizations that provide confidential assistance for people who want help in creating a plan for their health and safety. Check out National Breast Cancer Foundation and National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
- Donate. Providing a mammogram to someone who is unable to afford the associated health costs or donating funds to help with the varying transportation needs that arise in crises is invaluable. In addition to donating funds, keep informed of what items are needed at local shelters and provide them accordingly (I love stocking up at the dollar stores).
Ghandhi said, "be the change you want to see in the world" - sounds so simple, right? Of course it's hard to be kind, generous, and engaged every day. All we can do is try our best; to use each new day as an opportunity to make things better. Go out there and plant those new trees!