photo by author

I got a Facebook message from a well-meaning friend:

Hi, lovely, Can you put a

on your FB wall, without comment, only a heart, and then send this message to your women contacts? This is for women tomorrow. Remember it’s the week of breast cancer prevention! [Insert numerous heart emojis of various descriptions.] Hold your finger down on the message and hit forward.

As a breast cancer survivor, I appreciate the sentiment of support. But this message encapsulates everything I loathe about Facebook and breast cancer boosterism in general: the socially pressing joinerism and pink click of feel-good faux action.

Ironically, this message came hot on the heals of one of my favorite activities of the year, taking cancer survivors climbing.

Because here’s the thing about cancer prevention, breast and otherwise, it’s not easy. If all it took were a click of a button or a pink purchase, we’d be done by now. It takes constant, steady effort in your life, in your community and in society at large.

Those survivors I took climbing didn’t get out of bed one day and decide to hit the wall. They spent twelve weeks, twice per week, preparing, gaining strength, balance and cardiovascular fitness. Because wishing won’t make it so, won’t get you where you want to go.

It’s a magical thing to overcome a belief about yourself. It takes a willingness to doubt but not let fear stop you. It takes grace to fumble, pick yourself up, start again and achieve new heights. Our climbing class is a physical manifestation of that spirit, people achieving what they thought was beyond their abilities.

So, if you want to do something for me as a woman, if you want to do something for me as a cancer survivor, if you want to prevent cancer, do something for yourself. Put down the chips and pick up a carrot. Get up from the computer and take a walk. Quit smoking. Dial back the drinking. Use your voice to reduce everyone’s exposure to carcinogens. Support community programs which encourage healthy lifestyles. Take a breath.

If you already do all that, help a friend who wants to do the same. If you don’t, quit sabotaging loved ones who are making the effort.

And here’s the thing. You have to do it every day.

That’s how prevention works. Prevention isn’t a click. It isn’t even an annual checkup, though that certainly helps detect trouble before it gets out of hand. Prevention is a lifestyle.

Meg teaches LIVESTRONG at the YMCA, a 12-week, free fitness program for adult cancer survivors.

Writing, because talk is cheap