Editorial: The New Normal
First, some statistics courtesy of the Canadian Cancer Society:
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Canadian women (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer).
• An estimated 23,200 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 5,300 will die of it.
• An estimated 180 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 50 will die of it.
• On average, 445 Canadian women will be diagnosed with breast cancer every week.
• On average, 100 Canadian women will die of breast cancer every week.
Probability of developing or dying from breast cancer
• One in nine women is expected to develop breast cancer during her lifetime and one in 28 will die of it.
Trends in breast cancer
• Breast cancer incidence rose steadily from 1980 to the early 1990s, partly because of increased mammography screening. Breast cancer death rates have declined in every age group since at least the mid 1980s.
These are sobering statistics, but it is this last fact that raises cause for hope as medical advances offer the possibility of a time when cancer can be, if not defeated, at least treated with greater success.
On the Canadian Cancer Society website, there is a page dealing with life after cancer. In it, they talk about “the new normal,” pointing out that everyone deals with the aftermath of cancer treatment differently. For some, surviving cancer means going back to life as they knew it, for others, it means reassessing their lives and their values.
This month we talk to three women who are living the new normal. They have faced the dreaded diagnosis of breast cancer, successfully undergone surgery and treatment, and have gone back to their lives with a renewed sense of purpose. The other bond they share, besides their Nikkei heritage, is their passion for dragon boat racing as members of Abreast In A Boat, a concept that was started here in the lower mainland by a sports medicine doctor at the University of British Columbia, Dr. Don McKenzie, who set out to prove that survivors of breast cancer can and should engage in an active lifestyle, despite what common wisdom said.
One of the women, Esther Matsubuchi, was on that first dragon boar team in 1996. Her story, along with that of Patricia Tanaka and Vivian Omori, is an inspiration not only to other breast cancer survivors, but all of us. We are pleased to share it with you.