How to Act Pink During Breast Cancer Awareness Month

breast cancer awareness month|
bethpEditor’s note: Beth Porreca, director of events at USA Football, was diagnosed with breast cancer late last year. We’ve chronicled her battle periodically. We asked Porreca to share her perspective during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In the sports tourism industry, numbers are a big part of our lives. Some of the following can be heard in some form thousands of times at Connect Sports: > How many fields (courts, lanes, meeting rooms) do you have in your (convention center, host hotel)? > How many event participants? And how many room nights? > What’s the average economic impact of that event? Here’s a number to watch next year at Connect Marketplace: 1.6 million. That’s how many people are expected to be diagnosed with cancer in 2016 in the U.S. Some of those familiar faces at the conference are most likely dealing with cancer in their lives and it could be affecting them, a friend or a family member. I know—I am one of those people. Breast cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer and is the leading cause of deaths among females with cancer (ages 20 to 59 if you want to get specific). In the U.S., someone is diagnosed with breast cancer every two minutes for a total of 200,000 cases diagnosed annually, and, sadly, more than 40,000 men and women in the U.S. will pass away this year due to breast cancer. This is the time of year everyone thinks pink, and you especially see it in the sporting world: pink cleats, wristbands, socks and the pink ribbon on our favorite athletes’ uniforms. This year, don’t just think pink; act pink. And how, you ask, can you act pink if you have a close family member who is fighting breast cancer? Let me tell you. Ask them what they need and listen to what they tell you. The best thing my parents have done for me while I am fighting through this disease is to not be here physically every day. I know that sounds harsh, but it’s not. My parents understand that I not only need my independence, but it’s how I define myself. It kills my mom that she’s not here to give me a hug every time I have a bad day, but she knows that if she were here every day, I wouldn’t know that I can take care of myself. By asking me what I wanted and listening to me, my parents gave me the greatest gift of all: the strength to continue to believe in myself and the knowledge that they were always there if and when I needed them. Offer meaningful help. When you are good friends with someone, you become their outlet for things they may not want to talk to their family about. I can only imagine how hard it was for my best friend when I was initially diagnosed as having stage 4 breast cancer and how relieved he was when my doctors updated my diagnosis to stage 3. Through the turmoil, he was a rock that I could talk to about work, family and my health, and he never once lost it (at least that I know of). Without him, I would not have had the strength to deal with the various ups and downs of treatment. Send ALL the love. Seriously. It works. I was bombarded with texts, emails, cards and calls. Every single one made me smile. The amount of love I received (and am still receiving during my radiation recovery) was overwhelming in a positive way. I can’t thank everyone enough for taking time out of their days to make sure mine was going well. Don’t ask them how they feel. Ask them if there is anything you can do for them. I was diagnosed less than two months after starting a new job and barely knew my co-workers. Breast cancer is a tough disease and answering the question, “How do you feel?” is hard when you don’t know someone very well, especially during chemo when your body completely changes. When people would swing by my office and offer to pick something up at Starbucks or assistance on a project, it made it easier to discuss how I felt. If you want to get involved and help fight this awful disease, I highly recommend the Susan G. Komen website. It can point you toward charitable causes, walks and runs, and awareness events. The most important thing you can do is arm yourself with knowledge. Don’t only think about it during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Proactively talk to your doctor and come up with a plan for care based on your health and personal and family history, and then stick to it. If you are diagnosed with breast cancer, I can’t tell you what to do or how to handle it. My advice is pretty simple: Talk to your doctors; come up with a plan that fits your life and stick to it. What I can tell you is that the sports industry will support you. They will be there for you when you least expect it, and they will celebrate with you when you are ready. I’m hoping the hardest part of my journey will end in December—that’s when I am on track to get a cancer-free diagnosis. I can promise you I will act pink every day for the rest of my life thanks to this experience.