As 2020’s Breast Cancer Awareness month began, here at the Camden County, MO Emergency Management Agency, we stumbled across an interesting coincidence. We were reworking our logo for Facebook for the month when it occurred to us that the very words used for Emergency Management Mission Areas applied to the journey one takes when dealing with cancer of any kind. Prevention, Protection, Mitigation, Response, and Recovery are the steps those of us in EMAs across the nation follow to help our communities through large-scale emergencies. Let’s take a look at how they apply to Breast Cancer Awareness month and the journey those affected with it take in their lives. (For the purpose of our article, we used information gathered from the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc., the Mayo Clinic, and the Susan G Komen Foundation. Please feel free to visit their websites!)
The absolute best thing you can do to prevent cancer is to be aware of how to recognize signs and symptoms. We are taught from the time we are young to perform self-exams, talk to our doctors, have annual checkups/mammograms, and pursue healthy habits.
This is easily comparable to prevention in the emergency services world when you check the batteries in your smoke detector, child proof your home, install earthquake anchors on large, heavy furniture, purchase a weather radio, and subscribe to emergency alerts.
Protection will have to be loosely applied, as it’s definition when it comes to emergency management is: the capabilities necessary to secure the homeland against acts of terrorism and manmade or natural disasters. For the purposes of our article, we’ll tackle this topic by comparing HOW we carry out the capabilities of protection.
For the EMA, the biggest tool we use in the fight against terrorism is information. We are linked into Federal, State, Local government agencies, the private sector, and tons of organizations who make efforts to move information out in its purest form.
For those learning they have breast cancer, the absolute BEST weapon or armor they have is information. There is a plethora of information out there from a number of sources to help in the fight! Along with the ones we have linked above, their own doctor (though he or she may not be specialized in cancer) will have the contact information of a network of other doctors who specialize in cancer in general or their specific type. Remember, this is a unique experience!
Above all: THEY SHOULD NOT BE AFRAID TO ASK QUESTIONS!
As people learn they have breast cancer (or any other cancer), the primary thing in their minds is how do I beat it/live through it/handle this?
Some take a very scientific mindset, researching, reading studies, learning about the options, learning about the medications/treatments, and more. They want the facts so they feel prepared to work their way through a problem. Others take a more emotional approach, seeing to their mental and emotional health, as well as the physical. They use a different variety of tools including counselors, support groups, family, friends, and others.
Regardless of where the people fall, in one of those two groups or somewhere in between, their ultimate goal is the same. To come through to the other side still “themselves.” To do that, they seek out those tools to help themselves.
In emergency management, mitigation is the capabilities necessary to reduce the loss of life and property by lessening the impact of disasters. We can all agree that cancer in any form is a disaster. So just as people seek treatment, when EMAs make efforts to help reduce the loss of life or lessen the impact of disasters, we are working to “bring people through” and still feel like themselves by providing the public with the tools to help themselves and each other. EMAs work with schools and businesses to create Emergency Action Plans, hold training courses on how to be prepared, maintain a Community Emergency Response Team, and more!
Response can cover a myriad of plans doctors develop with their patients. People with cancer learn that there is no single treatment plan for everyone. Treatment is tailored to the person and the type of cancer, along with other factors.
This applies in emergency management every day. We never know what the day will bring and we don’t have a set answer for everything. We actively observe everything and, using some protocols, make judgment calls in every situation.
Situational Awareness is VITAL for both cancer patients and emergency management!
Recovery can be the best and worst part of cancer. Patients get a sense of “YAY! I made it!” followed swiftly by “Now what?”
The best thing we learned as we educated ourselves on the websites linked above, is that there are wonderful people who work with each and every individual to guide them through the “Now what?” phase. There are countless programs all over the world helping cancer survivors move on and find joy in life. They definitely help them begin to feel normal again!
One of the biggest parts of EMAs job is to help those affected by large-scale disasters get back to as close to normal as possible. We do this by managing the organizations responses after the disaster is over. We help to oversee those helping with donations, food/water, deliveries, shelter, and more. We also facilitate efforts by organizations who help to move people from temporary housing or solutions to permanent solutions!
It was enlightening to see the parallels of our job here at the EMA and the cancer awareness cycle. We had no idea just how alike our journeys were until today!
Thank you so much to those who read this article. Make sure you listen to your body and take care of yourself! Be sure to visit the websites we have linked at the top of the page for more detailed information on Breast Cancer Awareness month!