University of Life

Breasts, boobies, tatas

Whatever you call them, mammary glands are everywhere. Not usually a topic in the workplace, October is the perfect time for an important subject.

It is October, which is breast cancer awareness month, and I want to discuss breasts. Traditionally this is not a common platform for this topic, but I feel strongly that breast cancer is an important one for people to discuss. Breast cancer is a common diagnosis in Canadian women and affects more than just the individual person who is diagnosed.

2020 has been a weird and tough year for so many people and for so many reasons. I want to share with you one of the hard things that personally happened in my world. I lost a best friend to breast cancer.

This story should begin with you knowing that my friend and her husband owned a small construction business. They were fortunate that their staff was able to ensure that business carried on as usual and that they were able to keep afloat. Can you imagine the additional stress on the husband who supported his wife 24/7, while navigating the crazy path of being a business owner during the 2020 pandemic. It proves that within the competitive world of construction, there lies a community of people who pulls together and helps each other out when times are difficult.

It was an 18-month long battle, which felt long and yet went so fast. She was diagnosed in February 2019 and died in June 2020. We attended breast cancer fundraisers; my family dyed our hair pink; we did our best to support her and her family as much as we could during this time. Once her cancer was diagnosed, it was a wild road. She did chemo, radiation and had several surgeries. Her cancer travelled to other parts of her body, then it seemed to be gone but came back with a vengeance and finally took over. The new 2020 COVID-19-related restrictions made this journey extra hard on her, her family, and friends. She died peacefully and beautifully with her husband and son at her side. I am still grieving and still wanting a different ending. She was strong, brave, and still putting others before herself right up until the end.

I was not ready for the emptiness that I would feel once she was gone.

She Constructs supports women in the construction industry, which includes providing awareness to women and supporting charities who work just as hard on behalf of women as we do. It means sometimes sharing personal stories to connect with you, our readers, and to provide an opportunity for  conversation. I wanted to share my story to show you the impact that cancer has on not only the individual and her immediate family, but also on her circle of friends, co-workers, and her community.

The Canadian Cancer website shares the following:

  • Breast Cancer is the most common cancer among Canadian women: one in eight women will be diagnosed.
  • It is estimated in 2020 that 25 per cent of all new cancer cases in women will be diagnosed as breast cancer, and 13 per cent of female deaths of cancer will be from breast cancer.
  • In 2020, 240 Canadian men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 55 will die from it.

If you are diagnosed with cancer, try to have a discussion with HR at your place of employment or with your union. There may be times when you are too sick to work, or you must miss work for treatments. Your workplace needs to accommodate your return or to modify your work if you are able. It is important that your place of employment understands and accommodates you during this time to ensure that both parties are being supported and treated as fairly as possible. Many companies with benefit plans also include professional services that may help you or your support system at home during these times. It is important that you and those around you are in good mental spirits and get any professional assistance they need during this time.

If you are a man who is supporting a woman with breast cancer, please know that you are brave, strong, and appreciated. I know there will be times when you may not feel that way, that you are exhausted and question how much more you can do. What you are doing to be a supporting, loving and caring person is the most important part of your role. You can be her ears when she can’t hear; the mind that helps retain new information or when meds were last taken, and you can be the strong arms that help hold that women when she needs to physically be assisted or just to be hugged. Never underestimate the power of a good, long, quiet hug. The silence of it will be filled with the feeling of love.

Men and women, if you think that you have a concern, please be sure to see a doctor. Do not wait. Do not let fear hold you back. Do not let working overtime or allowing deadlines to be the reason that you do not get checked. It is important that it is caught early and treated. Success rates are higher when detected early. I cannot stress this enough.

Please take the time to visit the Canadian Cancer Society website: https://www.cancer.ca/en/?region=on There is lots of helpful information there to assist you and direct you to other informational sites.

I also encourage you to take the time in October to raise awareness and perhaps funds for the Cancer Society. You can contribute with us by visiting our website at www.sheconstructs.ca and sharing your stories or fundraising activities with our social media feeds by tagging us.

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November 2020

November 17, 2020

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