Branching out on breast cancer


Breast Cancer Awareness, celebrated every year in October, is dedicated to making everybody more knowledgeable about the cancer that, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, kills a woman every 13 minutes.

Honoring those who survived breast cancer is a big focus of Breast Cancer Awareness. Genna Kozlowski, a senior, knows what it’s like to have a family member suffer through this terrible illness.

“I found out in fifth grade that my mom had breast cancer,” Kozlowski said.

Her mother had stage one breast cancer, so the doctors were able to discover it early on. However, Kozlowski said that the procedure was still very serious. As a parent to three, her mother was determined to fight the cancer head on and undergo chemotherapy.

“It was hard for my family to … see her not be herself, but the community was so giving and so nice,” Kozlowski said.

The Kozlowski family received many meals and gifts from peers in the community while Kozlowski’s mother was going through treatment.

“Overall, the community really came together and was so giving,” Kozlowski said.

Although her mother’s cancer fortunately went away, the memory of how generous and supportive the community was to them will always stay with her as well as the experience of having a family member with cancer.

“I realized for whoever has a family member going through cancer, I know how serious it is and how much it affects the family,” Kozlowski said. “It has just made me really thankful for my parents and loved ones because you never know; within an instant, something can change.”

Not only was Kozlowski inspired by her mother’s strength through chemotherapy, but she also took action in her community to increase the support for cancer patients. She contributed her Silver Award in Girl Scouts to cancer patients like her mother.

“My silver award was to give hope and encouragement to people going through cancer because I know it can be such a hard time in someone’s life,” Kozlowski said. “I made cards and held a little booth and had kids make cards for others going through cancer.”

Breast Cancer Awareness Month raises many opportunities to inform others about life with cancer or with a family member who has cancer.

“(Cancer) can happen to anyone,” said Lainie Kastner, a junior whose mother passed away from skin cancer in 2008.

Although Kastner’s mother mainly had melanoma and only had slight breast cancer later on, Kastner still understands the importance of this month and improving cancer awareness in general.

“You don’t realize that things like being in the sun (while you’re) young or being exposed to a lot of radiation can lead to something so serious,” Kastner said.

Kastner also said how important it is to be aware of potential hazards that can lead to cancer, which is one of the efforts of cancer awareness in general.

Like Kozlowski, Kastner gained stronger connections with and respect for her mother and family throughout her mother’s treatment.

“I was so young,” Kastner said. “It was… hard, but as a family, we grew together closer.”

Even though it was a tragedy to have to say goodbye to a parent as such a young age, Kastner said she has come out of the experience stronger and more aware about others dealing with what her mother dealt with.

“It was a really hard experience, but ultimately, it’s made me stronger and made me a better person overall,” Kastner said. “I think that anyone who goes through something like that grows from it initially.

GBHS puts so much emphasis on Breast Cancer Awareness month with all the pink decor because according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, “Each year it is estimated that over 246,660 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 40,000 will die.”

School sports have also done their part to raise awareness about breast cancer itself and raise money for breast cancer research.

Maddie Ross, a sophomore on the junior varsity volleyball team, and her mother helped organize the Dig Pink fundraising events put on by the volleyball team.

“My mom gathered a bunch of volunteers, and she went around to a lot of businesses asking for donations,” Ross said.

These donations would go towards a big raffle for people to enter in and possibly win prizes. The money raised from tickets sales would all go toward breast cancer research.

Ross’s mother, a lymphatic and skin cancer survivor, participates in fundraises like these with her supportive cancer community, like Kozlowski’s mother. Seeing her mother go through such a hard experience has made Ross more aware of what life is like for cancer patients and more active in raising awareness in others.

“It really takes getting someone that you’re close to to get cancer to make you actually realize … how big the situation is and how much it affects people,” Ross said.

Cancer survivors and their efforts to raise awareness inspire others every day to expand their horizons and reach out to those going through troubling times. This is the ultimate purpose of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

“I’d want people (with cancer) to know that there’s support out there,” Kozlowski said. “You can have hope and get through it and be strong.”