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Style, strength and survival: The evolution of breast cancer awareness

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Barbara Boyd remembers jumping when she felt a lump on the side of her breast in the bathtub one evening.

The year was 1973, and she initially ignored it until the next night when she tried to check again.

RELATED: Fashion show raises funds for breast cancer survivors

“I couldn’t feel anything, so I went to ask my husband for a little help, but he was happy to do it. He found it. So, I said I better make an appointment, and I called the doctor,” said Boyd.

“Back in the day, having breast cancer was such a hush-hush thing. I don’t know why people felt that way.”

The former TV journalist had to visit the doctor’s office during her lunch break, where she was told she needed a biopsy. She remembers sitting at a bus stop following the appointment, fighting back tears.

Breast cancer awareness

A biopsy would later confirm that it was cancer, but fortunately it was discovered early.

“I sat up in bed, and I thought to myself that this would make a good story. So, I pitched it to my news director, and we decided to talk about breast cancer at a time when it wasn’t talked about. A day later, we had over 500 calls from women especially thanking us,” said Boyd.

Dr. Kathy Miller, a professor for IU School of Medicine and the IU Health Simon Cancer Center, said one in eight women will be diagnosed nowadays with breast cancer at some point in her lifetime.

“It’s about 240,000 women and about 2,500 men in the U.S. each year. The likelihood of developing breast cancer is actually increasing. As more women live into later adulthood, breast cancer becomes more common,” said Miller.

Style, strength and survival: How breast cancer awareness has evolved
This year’s fashions will be from boutique AH Collection and designer J. Benzal Menswear. (Photo/provided by Pink Ribbon Connection)

“We tend to start having periods earlier. That can increase the risk. We’re having fewer babies and having them later in life; that also increases the risk. We are a more obese society than we were, and that increases the risk.”

Treatment over the years

Miller said women who exercise are less likely to develop breast cancer than women who do not exercise.

Women who are at or closer to a healthy body weight are also less likely to develop breast cancer.

The stigma and treatment of breast cancer has changed since Miller first began teaching and practicing medicine.

“It thankfully changed dramatically. There were many decades in history where breast cancer was not talked about. It was whispered about. It was lumped into the group of female troubles or women’s diseases where you never really knew exactly what happened,” said Miller.

A 50-year survivor of breast cancer, Boyd has been a champion for awareness throughout the decades.

Breast cancer survivor fashion show

On Oct. 7, breast cancer survivors like Boyd will share their inspiring and courageous stories as they walk the runway dressed in the latest fall fashions at the Pink Ribbon Connection Stars of Pink Fashion Show.

The show raises funds to provide direct support to Indiana breast cancer survivors and their families through ticket sales, door prizes and a silent auction.

This year, the Indiana-focused nonprofit will honor Boyd.

The fashions are from boutique AH Collection and designer J. Benzal Menswear.

All proceeds from the fashion show will support the programs and services provided by Pink Ribbon Connection to patients and survivors at no cost including:

  • Peer counseling offered by other breast cancer survivors
  • Breast cancer and wellness-focused education and monthly information sessions
  • Free bras, wigs, prostheses and hats
  • Information packets for those going through treatment

The event is at the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown at 250 W. Maryland St.

Contact staff writer Jade Jackson at (317) 762-7853 or by email JadeJ@IndyRecorder.com. Follow her on Twitter @IAMJADEJACKSON

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