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Why Breast Cancer Awareness Month Is for Everyone

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October is one of my favorite seasons. I think of leaves changing, Halloween, pumpkins, and I also think of awareness. In October of this year, we celebrated World Ostomy DayMental Health Awareness Week , Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It is a month to love ourselves and our bodies — a month of awareness I think we need to honor every day, all year long.

It is a month to show our support in whatever way we can – whether it’s sporting a pink ribbon, participating in a run, or learning more about the issue. This mixed media painting above, “Dancing Girl,” was a piece I created in Yale Hospital and is now in a brand new Breast Cancer Outpatient Center. I couldn’t be prouder to be displaying it in a brand new beautiful center in Connecticut.

Making art, going to a medical checkup, reaching out to a friend – there are many ways we can spread the word about the importance of women’s health to raise more awareness around breast cancer. There are many common misconceptions about breast cancer, and to know it exists isn’t enough. That’s not the kind of awareness this month is about. Awareness starts from within – from the intimidating, yet extremely empowering fact that we have the ability to keep our amazing vessels as healthy as we can. That’s a wise and daily approach to healthcare.

As women, an important stance we can take to breast cancer is prevention, and the best stance anyone can take to any kind of physical illness is good self-care. It’s an effort I try to make daily –  I’ve been through enough already! So the least I can do is take an empowered approach to my health for the one body I have. After 27 surgeries, my digestive system was surgically reconstructed with the intestines I had left, and now I want to make sure I fill that system with the best nourishment possible, and do everything I can to take care of myself – inside and out. No matter what we’re going through, we need to love, nourish and care our bodies. What else can I do? I try to exercise, eat healthy foods, and see my OB-GYN regularly.

Here are some ideas to keep your mind and body healthy:

My biggest healing and recovery resource has been sharing my story. If you’re going through something… talk about it. Sharing our story makes it more palpable for ourselves. By just speaking it, writing it, dancing it – we reframe what has happened to us in a way that we can easily process. And the mind and body are definitely related – so take care of all of you. We can cope with any detour in life if we travel it together. You are not alone, and just having someone be able to nod their heads in empathy makes things that much easier. I think awareness months are also about knowing we’re not alone. Life can be a bit hard, and it takes a bit more work at times, but there is some kind of power in numbers here. Knowing we all struggle, we all get frustrated, we all feel messy, sick, angry, sad, or just don’t want to deal – when we know others go through this too, we actually feel human. So this month – and every month — let’s spread awareness in our world. But let’s not forget the best kind of awareness – our own. Take care of you. Together, we’re stronger. Creativity is healing. So get creative, get mindful, get self-compassionate – and let your body do the rest.

Amy is a PTSD peer-peer specialist, artist, author, speaker for RAINN and TEDx, award-winning health advocate, actress and playwright. Endorse Amy’s nomination by WEGO Health for a Health Activist Hero Award until October 21st at  Amy is currently touring with her one-woman musical, Gutless & Grateful to theaters, schools, healthcare communities and more.  For information on keynote presentations, workshops and signature talkbacks, (and specialized versions for corporations, college campuses, survivorshealthcare professionals, and artists) visit  Amy also offers private coaching to help others navigate their own beautiful detours, and subscribe for free excerpts of her upcoming book, My Beautiful Detour, and download a free creativity e-book.

Originally published: October 18, 2016
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