By HEDY TRIPP
AAP contributing writer
ST. CLOUD (Oct. 12, 2012) — There was no known history of breast cancer in my family.
A single research article by Ziegler in 1993 showed that when Asian women migrate to the U.S., “their risk of developing breast cancer increases up to six-fold.” I migrated from Singapore in 1978, when I was 30.
Could my exposure to Western lifestyles, change of diet, and other environmental factors have caused the cancer? We still do not know for sure.
We still do not have a cure for breast cancer. But we need to keep on trying to find that cure and we need to do everything possible to catch the cancer in its early stages and prevent it from spreading thoughout our bodies. I have found that some of the best research on breast cancer and recognition of racial health disparities are from the American Cancer Society.
It was in December 1995 that I was diagnosed with intraductal carcinoma with one focus point of invasive cancer after my first mammgram showed a suspicious area in my left breast. It was a difficult time as my youngest children were 3 and 5 years old.
I had nursed them as babies, and as they toddled around I had fear in my heart that I may be taken from them too soon – cancer still being wrapped around fatalism. I was sad that maybe I would not see all my children grow with my husband and celebrate all their birthdays.
I did not want chemotherapy and radiation as I felt it would take away from the quality of my life spent with my family. So I decided on a “simple” masectomy, which was done in January of 1996.
I still miss my left breast breast, it was an important part of me yet it did not define my identity. Part of my lectures on breast cancer includes the questions on how breasts should not define the beauty of a woman – whether she be one-breasted are none or reconstructed – that it should not be seen as a deformity but like battle scars, the proof of dealing with death defying issues.
I continue having a full life, every day is a wonderful adventure. Every year I feel a new lease on life as my mammogram comes back without the strange shadows of that earlier time. If I had not had that mammogram in 1995 we may not have caught the cancer at that early non-invasive stage – it could have easily become invasive and spread to other parts of my body as it did with friends I know. I may not be writing this story to you today.
I am honored this year to be St. Cloud State University’s 2012 Honorary Survivor and taking part in the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer in Central Minnesota. As an educator I have been highlighting the need for more research on breast cancer in women of color.
Although breast cancer is non-discriminatory, women of color are dying more from breast cancer than white women. They are more likely to receive a late-stage diagnoses of breast cancer.
Fifty percent of Black women and Latinas and 41 percent of Asian women were diagnosed when cancer had spread beyond the breast. The survival rate for African American women are at 71 percent compared to White women who are at 90 percent.
For true health equity we need to have a survival rate for ALL women at more than 90 percent. Research, outreach and awareness to ALL communities are essential. We need to support organizations like the American Cancer Society that are committed to health equity – The elimination of disparities in the burden of cancer is one of the overarching themes of the American Cancer Society 2015 challenge goals. For our part in these actions, we need to keep the ACS and other organizations accountable to these goals.
I am truly grateful for all the support I have from my family, colleagues, students, friends and the national Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum. I am especially appreciative of the wonderful volunteers who have been planning and fundraising for the American Cancer Society’s Strides Against Breast Cancer event.
Do donate to a most worthy cause and join us at the Strides event at Halenbeck fieldhouse at St. Cloud State University this Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012 at 8:45 a.m. for the openning ceremony at Saint Cloud State University, Halenbeck Hall Fieldhouse, St. Cloud. For information call 320-255-0757 x310. Come earlier and register as a team. We will have the closing ceremony at 10:45 a.m. and ends at 11 a.m.
Hedy Tripp is the 2012 Honorary Breast Cancer Survivor for SCSU. Come celebrate the birthdays of the many breast cancer survivors who will be at the event and support their families and friends.
Hedy Tripp, the 2012 Honorary Breast Cancer Survivor for SCSU will lead the American Cancer Society walk to prevent breast cancer on Sat., Oct. 20, with registration starting at 7 a.m., and opening ceremony at 8:45 a.m., and the walk at 9 a.m. at Saint Cloud State University, Halenbeck Hall Fieldhouse, St. Cloud. For information call 320-255-0757 x310.