A dear friend from Pakistan who has written books on the Taliban visited me during my chemotherapy. Just before my mastectomy, he asked, "Darling, are they going to reconstruct them?" He meant my breasts. I said: "Of course, Ahmed. They will do immediate reconstruction." He looked shocked and told me that in Pakistan they just give women two strap-on prosthetic breasts to wear under their shalwar kameez and don't bother reconstructing. In Saudi Arabia, women still need the permission of their husbands to get a mammogram. I can honestly say now that my breasts, three weeks after a double mastectomy, look better than they did before—and they weren't bad before!
The race in Jerusalem will be open to all faiths, all groups, Palestinians, Israelis and anyone from around the world in spite of the political tensions in the city that often divide, according to a vow from Komen organizers and the mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat. Breast cancer knows no boundaries, and therefore maybe it will be a way to set aside political and religious differences for one day to unite half of the world: women, who bear the brunt of this awful disease. Mayor Barkat has promised to turn the Old City Walls pink on the day of the race, October 28, 2010. The 5K course will go around the Old City Walls. If you want to join a team and you are in the United States, you can purchase a package tour in which nearly half of the proceeds go to Komen and its research and prevention efforts. Visit Komen.org/Israel for the details if you want to join the race!
Along with this historic first race, Komen is trying to prevent a breast cancer "tsunami" worldwide. It is already offering Promise grants in 25 countries, and during the weeklong race week in Jerusalem from October 25 to 29, it will host a think tank of 50 scientists, nanophysicists, bio-imagers, oncologists and imagers to come up with a more cost-effective portable screening device or technology that will be even better than mammography. The seed grants will be $50,000 to $100,000 each. Neither mammography nor MRIs are good enough to detect breast cancer, but they are the best we have right now.
My 9-centimeter tumor grew between mammograms (as many triple negative tumors do) and while I was pregnant. If you are pregnant or nursing, do not think that you are immune from breast cancer. Keep a close eye on any odd changes in your breast. Be very familiar, because this cancer is opportunistic and, as of yet, your ob-gyn does not have a way of screening you during this period, yet more and more young women are finding that their cancers are appearing during pregnancy and lactation.
I challenge Komen to come up with a screening test during this vulnerable period for women as well. My husband and my two daughters will be in Jerusalem for the race on October 28. I hope you'll join us.
Are you attending a Race for a Cure or have you participated before? Leave your comments below.
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