Last week I shared how my good friend and former business partner, Bruce Jesse, had been unexpectedly diagnosed with breast cancer.
But before I share Bruce’s story, let’s take a step back and brush-up on some facts, myths and misconceptions about breast cancer that might surprise you.
Depending on the type and patient’s genetics, breast cancer can be relatively harmless–or deadly.
VERY BASIC STATS
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “breast cancer is the second most common cancer among women in the United States. It is also one of the leading causes of cancer death among women of all races.”
2009 statistics were the most recent I could find. They show over 200,000 women were diagnosed with breast cancer that year. Just over 40,000 women died.
Best I can tell, four out of five women that are newly diagnosed should live at least ten years. But overall survival stats are all-over-the-board. There are too many variables and moving parts to generalize.
But it is clear that early stage cancers and patients that receive top-notch medical care do best–and most are cured. Inflammatory breast cancer is one of the exceptions here. Fast moving and aggressive, the prognosis for patients with this less common form of breast cancer isn’t very good. The same holds-true for metastasized breast cancer. Median survival rates for these patients can be less than five years.
But one thing I’m sure of: breast cancer is the most glamorous of cancers. Pink ribbons everywhere. At NFL games each fall, players wear pink shoes. Young, oversexed cheerleaders wear ink, plunging tank tops. Hollywood actresses appear on talk shows after their diagnosis and surgery.
Of course, most of this has little to do with breast cancer. It’s all about marketing and image. Fundraising is the life’s blood of any non-profit. And it takes a lot of cash to support large charities like Susan G. Komen, HERS, Vera Bradley and the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Fundraising pros figured-out a long time ago that hopeful, happy people donate more.
So instead of seeing images of sick, broken-down or disfigured patients, we see images like this:
And even this:
All in the name of breast cancer awareness.
But you shouldn’t need me to tell you that this isn’t the real face of breast cancer. Far from it. According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the median age at time of diagnosis is 61 years old. The average age of someone that dies from breast cancer is 68 years old.
And even though white women in the U.S. are statistically more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than African American women, 20 out of 1000 whites will die of breast cancer this year, while 30 out of ever 1000 blacks with breast cancer will die.
So images like these:
Would be much more appropriate.
Fair enough. But how about an image like this:
Can you identify the breast cancer survivor in this picture? No, it isn’t my lovely wife, Pattie, on the left. And you know it isn’t me on the right. That’s the smiling face of my good friend and breast cancer survivor, Bruce Jesse, standing in-between Pattie and his son, Eric.
Surprised? Hey Bruce! You’re a good looking guy! Always smiling and quick to help anyone that might need it. That’s what makes him such an excellent Realtor. Bruce cares about his clients.
But let’s be honest. I’m not holding my breath, waiting for Bruce’s face to take the place of one of the carefully crafted images that professional breast cancer fundraisers use.
And that’s too bad. Because Bruce has a heart of gold–and a story that’s more heroic and inspirational than most.
Tune-in next week for an in-depth look at Bruce’s unexpected and surprising breast cancer journey.
Until then, feel good and keep smiling! Pat