Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Awareness Month

These days it seems like everything has an awareness month.  Every type of cancer, illness, disorder gets it time to shine.  Since 1985 Ocotober has been Breast Cancer Awareness month.  Breast Cancer deserves a month.  It deserves year round awareness.  One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer.  That's a pretty terrifying statistic.  You have a friend, neighbor, or coworker who has battled breast cancer.  While treatment options have gotten much better over the past 30 years it is still a horrible diagosis.  Many women fight and survive.  Many women fight and sadly lose their battle.  So what is the point of an awareness month?  

Fortunately most breast cancer can be detected early on through screening processes.  Monthly self breast exams and annual mammograms can help detect breast cancer early.  The earlier the cancer is found, the better the chances of treatment being successful.  The other purpose of an awareness month is to simply rally support.  It wasn't that long ago that the word "breast" caused people to blush.  Women had to keep their diagnosis to themselves and suffer in silence.  We have come so far.  Breast cancer awareness is everywhere.  Pink is everywhere.  Pink water bottles, pink ribbons, talk show hosts in pink, football players in pink, breast cancer walks, go pink day.  Women and men that have struggled with breast cancer are finally getting the support that they deserve.  Money is being donated to help fund continued research towards breast cancer.  There is still a long way to go.  Ideally all breast cancer will some day have a cure. 

Because there are only 12 months in a year, many causes have to share the spotlight.  October is also National Liver Cancer Awareness Month and National Down Syndrome Awareness Month.  And while I couldn't even find it on the official list, October is also National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.  I think we can all understand why awareness is important for cancer.  Awareness can help raise money for finding a cure.  It can also encourage people to do early screening and know what early symptoms look like and when to go to the doctor.  So why awareness for miscarriage and infant death?

One in four pregnancies end in miscarriage.  One in 160 pregnancies end in stillbirth.  Six babies out of every 1000 born will die before their first birthday.  Parents of these babies are everywhere.  They are your friends, neighbors and coworkers.  Yet, you may not know it.  There is still a stigma associated with pregnancy loss.  It quietly happens all the time, but it is often hushed and swept under the rug.  So many families are left to grieve alone.  

When I had my first miscarriage I was heartbroken.  I was 10 weeks and we had only announced to our immediate family and a few friends.  I knew a couple other Moms that had been through a miscarriage.  But I never thought it would happen to me.  I didn't realize how common pregnancy loss is.  I didn't know what the grieving process was like, because I had never seen it.

I got pregnant again three months later with my twins.  There wasn't a day that went by that I wasn't afraid of losing them.  As time went and I got through the first trimester I started to relax a little.  After their anatomy scan at 18 weeks I started to finally believe that we would be bringing two healthy babies home with us.  I had no idea that I could even go into preterm labor at 22 weeks.  But I did, and they were born too tiny to survive.  

Following their death I couldn't contain my grief.  I was unable to grieve alone, so I reached out.  I started attending a support group for bereaved parents.  I started writing my blog.  I posted pictures of my son and daughter on facebook.  I poured out my grief where ever I could. I was shocked by how many women came forward to tell me about their loss.  I don't blame any of them for keeping quiet about their pregnancy losses.  We live in a society where miscarriage and infant death is taboo.  Nobody is comfortable hearing about it and very few people are talking about it.  I for one, am tired of the silence.  

So as you wear your pink this month in support of breast cancer.  Think about doing something for miscarriage and infant loss awareness as well.  Wear a pink and blue ribbon.  Post something on facebook, or twitter or instagram.  Light a candle for all the grieving parents.  While we are not fighting for a cure, we are fighting for awareness. And if you are one of those grieving parents know that you are not alone.  It may seem like you are, but we are here to listen to you, hug you, support you and help break the silence.