Self and the City is a column intended to increase visibility and dialogue surrounding mental health, relationships, harmful stereotypes, and the necessity for self-care and vulnerability. Self and the City will be headlined by Jessa Chargois on a bi-weekly basis. Submissions and guest columnists are welcomed to send work to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Autumn, in all of its hustle and bustle, is at the height of its enigmatic beauty in October. A month so generous, it can hold varying meaning for each of us. For some, the leaves have changed, garnishing the city in orange and yellow, and sweaters have found their way to the front the closet. For others, elaborate costumes and decorations will be dutifully adorned.
For those of us in our 20s and 30s, October mostly feels like a uniquely busy time of year. Fewer hours in the day, and more to do than ever, we remain steady in movement and focused, like always, on the future. On weekends, hardly a sunny day can be squandered with rest – there’s no guaranteeing how many are left. Amidst this movement, there is an unsung group of autumn dwellers who navigate this seasonal change while honoring an additional element: Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Ceremonially, October has become just as linked to pink as it’s been to pumpkin carving. As years have passed, the support for breast cancer patients, survivors, and research has only compounded into something more meaningful than seen on the surface. And with a certified month of celebration, there are many among us worth celebrating.
More than we may realize, there are young survivors of breast cancer working alongside us on our team, in our office building, or passing us on that street corner every morning. Like anyone, they are mindfully navigating the same motions of life as the rest of the crowd. Yet, sometimes, forgivably, we overlook the hidden significance of their journey. For this group of survivors (making up the estimated 3.9 million females in the US), October holds a hard-to-describe aura of unconditional strength and support. Here, amidst this plentiful month, is where we as a community find dedicated space to honor these friends, family members, and peers who rise up every day. Within the larger discussion on wellness, this period is a moment of cancer advocacy that continues to drive the conversation and remind us about the true reach of survivorship.
For me, I’ve come to appreciate Breast Cancer Awareness month as a 31-day salute of support, if you will, for all those fighting to not just end cancer, but live beyond it. I myself, at 24, am a survivor of a different cancerous setback; Lymphoma, also a not-uncommon diagnosis among 20 and 30-year-olds. From our commonalities, I’ve been lucky to get to know and share with breast cancer survivors who’ve faced a courageous battle uniquely their own. Despite our individual experiences, young people everywhere in treatment or remission can find a gentle reminder during October that the world sees you; despite your diagnosis. A small pink ribbon on a pin or window sign at your corner coffee shop sends this month’s message: we are all rooting for this thing called health. And despite the busyness of our season, we’re all listening. It’s these small acts of love that give many affected by cancer the courage to move forward.
For breast cancer survivors, this month can be all at once overwhelming, bittersweet or joyous. For all survivors of any health setback, it’s beyond comforting to know that there are organizations eager to connect you one-on-one with other ordinary humans who also just so happen to know the battle firsthand. They too know the sensory overload of this season. Pink ribbons and NFL gear offer a purposeful sign of support, but nothing brings you quite so much peace of mind during this packed month like real conversations with those who are navigating a similar set of circumstances.
In today’s expanding dialogue on health and wellness, there are a list of topics that deserve our dedicated space and time – and rightfully so. Survivorship, of any kind, however, isn’t always the first element of wellness of we think of. But it’s perhaps the root of the conversation. Health goes beyond immediate healing. It’s how we support others after physical recovery and beyond. Balancing remission is truly a balance of both gratitude and eager page-turning. Year after year, the outpouring of love for breast cancer awareness month motivates and uplifts a certain community who, like anyone, is simply rooting for a fulfilled, healthy life. For those of us running around the city figuring out our lives with one eye always on health, something about this ether of care and support felt throughout October provides a beautiful moment of love and gratitude.
So even within this year’s ups and downs, we will once again find room this month to honor much more than falling leaves. For those who celebrate this month for deeper reasons than we may ever know, October is especially for you.