Cancer is one of life’s unwelcome milestones.
Defined literally, a milestone refers to "stone or pillar set up on a highway or other line of travel to mark the distance in miles." But, most often we define a milestone as a significant life event, often marking the start of a new chapter. It can be personal or celebrated collectively.
In the beginning, the path of “conventional” life milestones is laid out; they are culturally encouraged and structured from birth through adulthood and beyond: walking, talking, driving a car, graduating, getting a job, becoming independent, voting, moving out, homeownership, marriage, and birth of a child, etc.
However, are all of life’s milestones happy? No! So, why don’t people talk about or list those? Is it because some feel it is too personal to share? Does it make them feel shame, like they failed? Or, perhaps because it would be distasteful to celebrate happy and sad moments the same way?
Simply put, some milestones humans have to grow through. They aren’t the ones sought out, seen coming, or even thought of to plan and save for. And they certainly don’t inspire one to shout from the rooftop or raise a glass.
So, here it is: Cancer is an unwelcome milestone.
Whether you face it head on yourself or alongside a friend, family member, or perhaps a close colleague, the chances are you will know someone that will have cancer in their lifetime.
Approximately, 1 in 8 women in the US will develop breast cancer in herlifetime and, 1 in 23 men and 1 in 25 women will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in their lifetime.
The formal announcement of cancer can begin much differently from person to person; some may look for support on social media, whereas others will share it with a few close people. At some point, one of 24 people you know may share the unwelcomed news: “I have been diagnosed with cancer.”
Many people will experience a situation like this in their lives. Sometimes it will be an unwelcome milestone that shapes your own and your loved ones’ futures.
Look around at the amazing people in your life. Continue to celebrate those wonderful moments together, but take the time to talk about some more serious potential milestones. With the support and encouragement of friends and family, it is easier to be proactive about your health. Be healthy together. Remind friends and family to keep their mammogram and colonoscopy appointments. Discuss breast and colorectal cancer risk factors with each other. Encourage each other to discuss that risk or any concerns with a healthcare provider.
Welcomed or not, milestones are part of life. But sometimes we can be better prepared for what life throws at us or our loved ones when we are informed and educated. Be empowered. Understand your risk of developing breast and colorectal cancer.
1. American Cancer Society. Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2017-2018. Atlanta: American Cancer Society, Inc. 2017.
2. American Cancer Society. Colorectal Cancer Facts & Figures 2017-2019. Atlanta: American Cancer Society; 2017.