With October practically around the corner, more and more public figures, companies and everyday people are supporting or encouraging others to support breast cancer research. While it is extremely vital to fund foundations that are dedicated to fighting one of the most common illnesses affecting women, I'm afraid that another illness even more frequently diagnosed in women often gets overlooked for reasons I'm not completely sure of. Surprising, right?
According to breastcancer.org, one in eight women "will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime." On the other hand, one in six women will suffer from Alzheimer's (note: other sources state that the number is less than six). Yet, how often do we really hear about money being raised to fund research for a cure to this agonizing illness? I know that I rarely do. If there is any new release of statistics, personal stories or government funding, I immediately read it and try to spread the word. Are the people being affected by the disease the only ones who care?
It seems that hardly any public figures, except Seth Rogen, or companies, except TJX, who fully support other causes have ever stated that they are taking a stand against Alzheimer's. There is an abundance of pink ribbons around cities and neighborhoods, slapped on bumpers and product packaging and posted in store fronts. Although I am in no way undermining the support of breast cancer research or funding and I find the united force against it wonderfully inspiring, where are all of the purple ribbons? It was always my favorite color, you know.
Time after time, I have written to women's magazines practically begging them to write an informative and eye-opening piece on both Alzheimer's and early-onset Alzheimer's, which strikes people below 65. Each time I reach out, I receive a hopeful email back stating that my suggestion was forwarded to the appropriate editor. When the glossy magazine lands in my hands every month, I eagerly flip to the table of contents, hoping to find an article or even a brief mentioning of the disease somewhere. Sadly, I am always disappointed. Is this illness not considered important or worthwhile to discuss because it's mental? Is it too embarrassing and uncomfortable to discuss the eventual incontinence of its victims? I'm stumped as to why no powerful women's publication has even attempted to tackle this subject even with the recent release of new, alarming statistics. Perhaps readers may be finding themselves or their loved ones forgetting recently learned information, having difficulty finding the right word in a conversation or having trouble performing simple tasks (these are early symptoms of the disease). If a woman reads about these symptoms in a beloved, trusted magazine, she will hopefully take action and seek the help she needs. Why deprive people of this information that could be so incredibly useful?
I am always looking for others, big and powerful or small and quiet, who are as desperate to find a cure as I am. In the meantime, write to your local newspaper, favorite magazine or state legislators about raising awareness for women and men, victims and caregivers, and the extremely heart-wrenching reality that is Alzheimer's. If we don't talk about it, countless cases will be misdiagnosed and people will not take precautions or be on the lookout for odd behaviors in themselves and loved ones.
Perhaps I am totally overlooking a huge support system outside the community of those directly affected by the disease and if so, please let me know in the comments; I will be so happy to know that others are taking a stand and spreading the word and that perhaps in the future, Alzheimer's will be a thing of the past.
For more information, visit the Alzheimer's Association website at http://www.alz.org/