All around the world October signifies one thing: breast cancer awareness. Whether you are someone’s parent, sibling, or grandchild, it is pretty likely that breast cancer, in one way or another, has affected you.
According to the World Cancer Research Fund International, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women around the world, making up about 25 percent of all female cancer cases. Nearly 1.7 million women were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012 worldwide, with 53 percent of cases found in developing countries.
Although breast cancer awareness may be more prevalent in the West, China is no exception to being affected by this deadly disease. While you may regularly see pink ribbons proudly displayed on women’s bags and shirts back home at one of the many fundraising events for breast cancer research, it is a more irregular occurrence here in Shanghai and Asia at large. However, as more awareness is being brought to Chinese people, organizations are beginning to pop up to help the community cope with this new information – More Than Aware is one of them.
More Than Aware is an organization started by a group of expat women here in Shanghai in 2011. While many organizations take on the medical prevention side of breast cancer, this organization has a different approach. Suzanne Calton, Director and Founder of More Than Aware, explains, “[We] take a different spin on breast cancer awareness than you usually see. We focus on lifestyle prevention and the recovery side of things.” With three main ‘pillars’ in their mission – Proactive Prevention (nutrition), Wellness from Within (emotional wellbeing), and Sisterhood Support (relationship focus) – the organization works to better inform women. “[These pillars] have a direct relationship with your overall health. It’s been proven that your relationships, a good diet and good lifestyle can make you healthier, and that when you are in control of your emotions it can have a direct effect on your immune system.”
“Nearly 1.7 million women were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012 worldwide”
With a green tail on the end of their pink ribbon, More Than Aware signifies a lifestyle of wellness along with breast cancer awareness. The organization is leading the way to bridge the gap between awareness and living a well-rounded healthier lifestyle to either prevent or recover from breast cancer.
The Sisterhood Support pillar is perhaps one of the most significant aspects of More Than Aware, with ‘thriver groups’ for both expats and locals. Calton explains the importance of having a support group that really knows what you are going through. While families and friends can give support, no one really knows what having breast cancer is like until they’ve experienced it, and that is the purpose of the thriver groups. “We replaced the word ‘survivor’ with ‘thriver’ because we are more of a proactive group to wellness as opposed to a reactive group,” she says.
One thriver was diagnosed with breast cancer back in 2011, one year after moving to Shanghai. After returning to her home country for surgery, she came back to Shanghai to undergo chemotherapy and joined More Than Aware for support. She says, “Having been through cancer, depression, and a family about to disintegrate, becoming an active member of More Than Aware has saved my soul. I truly believe that with the faith and hope provided by this organization, I am not afraid of getting ill again. We learn how this sisterhood support of love nourishes our souls and makes us stronger.” She has been a thriver ever since.
More Than Aware is filling up the calendar with events for October, promoting breast cancer awareness and creating energy around what wellness can do for those affected. Their most anticipated event of the year is the Women’s Luncheon, which will be held on October 27 at the Pudong Shangri-La, and they’re expecting nearly 1,000 attendees from all different backgrounds to raise funds for women in recovery.
Visit their website morethanaware.com to learn more about all their upcoming events for breast cancer awareness month. Help bring awareness to Shanghai and support the thrivers who have weathered the storm.
Donate and learn more at morethanaware.com.