Christina Wells

Awareness. There is a great deal of power in that word.

The definition of awareness is “knowledge or perception of a situation or fact” and “concern about and well-informed interest in a particular situation or development.” I believe we all need to be more aware of the world around us, even when it seems that on the surface what’s happening may not apply to us. Simply as human beings, we all need to care about each other and offer support. As we well know, each month of the year is a time set aside to mark awareness of a variety of issues. According to nationaldaycalendar.com, October marks more than 100 different awareness and appreciation campaigns and celebrations, both of serious subjects and light-hearted topics. There are two awareness efforts in October that mean a great deal to me — Breast Cancer Awareness Month and National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

One of my earlier careers was spent as a Community Cancer Control Manager with the American Cancer Society (ACS). Initially, I worked with education and awareness programs and support groups in a seven-county territory — Edgecombe, Franklin, Halifax, Nash, Northampton, Vance and Warren — with my partner who coordinated fundraising efforts. Working with ACS was both the most uplifting and heartbreaking time of my life. Back in those days, staff phone numbers were listed in the phone book as the local number for ACS. I would get calls, sometimes late at night, from family members trying to find out how to pay for funeral expenses or seeking transportation for their loved ones to doctor’s appointments and treatments. While ACS did not always have a program to help solve the problem, it was our job to be able to refer those in need to local resources. It always felt so good to be able to help and to be a listening ear, which was sometimes all that was needed.

Some of my highest highs and lowest lows came in working directly with support groups. I admired them and got very close to them, so I was devastated if any of them passed away. One of my favorite support groups was the M Club (M for Mastectomy), a group of breast cancer survivors who met monthly at a local restaurant for lunch. These women were absolutely amazing. Each member exhibited duality — overwhelming strength, coupled with beautiful softness, extreme joy, paired with sorrow. These women came together to help each other through the shared experience of breast cancer, imparting information, crying, supporting, hugging and laughing. Finding the humor in one of the most challenging situations of their lives was the hallmark of all of the cancer survivors with whom I had the honor of working.

One particular M Club member and breast cancer survivor whom I loved dearly was always able to make the other ladies laugh. She told a story of going to bed with her husband one night. As she got ready for bed, she put her wig on the Styrofoam head beside the bed, placed her breast prosthesis in the dresser drawer, and took her dentures out and put them in a glass. Her husband jokingly said, “Wait just a minute. Let me know if anything else is coming off.” I can’t be sure if the story was true, which was certainly believable given the funny nature of the storyteller, but the story’s being true or not didn’t matter … what mattered was the moment of laughter that all of these women could relate to and greatly needed.

The other October awareness issue that awakens strong feelings for me is domestic violence. I cannot fathom how anyone can be cruel to an animal, so I am absolutely baffled how anyone can use their physical strength and/or emotional cruelty to physically or mentally abuse another person. Domestic violence is abhorrent and inexcusable. What makes it even worse, these abusers perform these acts of violence in the guise of saying they love the other person. In my opinion, anyone who abuses another knows nothing of love. Even worse, to justify their behavior, they will tell the person they are abusing that the abuser’s actions are the sufferer’s fault by saying such things as, “Look what you made me do.” In an effort to completely break the person down, the abuser does their best to ruin the sufferer’s self-esteem and to isolate them completely from all other friends and family. I have nothing more to say about people who do such things to others. Thank goodness for another local organization like Hannah’s Place to educate the public about domestic violence, bring light to darkness, and provide shelter to those who need a safe haven. If you are in an abusive situation, please seek help immediately.

Being aware of the world around us is paramount to living a better life in this world that we share. Each day of every month please let us be aware of issues people are facing and of ourselves and how our thoughts and actions impact others.

Christina Wells lives in Halifax with her husband, Bruce, and their dog, Sunny.

Christina Wells lives in Halifax with her husband, Bruce, and their dog, Sunny.