“Pink Week. That’s about girls and boobs,” teacher Wendi Lowe told hundreds of laughing Steele High boys Tuesday. “But really, it’s not. You see, I hate cancer.”
The room grew silent.
Lowe has organized Pink Week at the high school since 2012, after fighting her own life-and-death battle with cancer.
“For me, it meant having my breast cut off my body. It meant three months of carefully controlled poisons pumped into me. It meant waking up to chunks of hair on my pillow. It meant two and a half years of surgeries to give me back a body that is mostly right but rivals Frankenstein for scars. And it means that I now stand here in front of you and talk about breast cancer,” she said.
One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. At Steele High, that means 83 girls will statistically be diagnosed at some point in their lives, with roughly 10 dying from the disease.
An estimated 252,710 new cases will be diagnosed in 2017, according to the American Cancer Society. Even scarier, about 85 percent of breast cancers occur in women who have who have no family history of the disease.
Those are important facts for men to know. “Do you know eight females?” Lowe challenged the Amherst boys. “Are there eight women in this world you love? Your mom? Grandma? Aunt? Sister? A girlfriend? A friend who is a girl?”
A stunning reality that is often forgotten: Men have breasts too, and cancer does not discriminate.
The diagnosis rate among men is one in 1,000 but the death rate is slightly higher than women — nearly one in five. About 2,470 new cases will be diagnosed in 2017, taking the life of 460 men.
Lowe told the boys to pay attention to their bodies and become aware of what is normal.
Understanding the peril of breast cancer is about more than wearing pink, Lowe said. Early detection is key, and she urged boys to make sure the women they know and love do self-exams and get mammograms.
“You are the front line of detection for yourself and for future spouses and partners,” she said. “You should not be ashamed or embarrassed to ask the women you love if they are taking a proactive approach to their health.”
Go ahead and wear pink, she said, but remember that you are a partner in the battle against breast cancer.
Laurie Hamame can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @HamameNews on Twitter.