October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, kickstarting an annual campaign that increases awareness and support. Shelby Lopez, Azusa Pacific University student-athlete, explains how a family member impacted by the disease made this month important to her. 

Q: What does Breast Cancer Awareness Month mean to you and why?

Shelby Lopez: I have had a lot of women in my life who have had breast cancer, and it reminds me of all the strong women that have overcome it, and all of the ones who are dealing with it right now.

Q: Who did you know was impacted by breast cancer? After hearing the news, what was your initial response, and how did you feel and react? How did your family handle the news?

Shelby Lopez: During her mid-60s, my grandma was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was about 10 years old. When I found out my grandma had breast cancer, my siblings and I were scared and didn’t know what it was at the time or what it would entail. We didn’t know enough throughout the whole process, so we were scared of what was next. 

Q: What steps were taken in order to get through it? As a family, the one impacted and yourself as well. 

Shelby Lopez: I personally was pretty young, so I sat around and watched it happen. For the family, it was hard to help [my grandma] because she lived over two hours away from us. It was hard to support her physically, but we always managed to make sure she was okay, especially because she is an independent woman. 

Q: What was the outcome? Did she recover? 

Shelby Lopez: My grandma owned a travel agency and she had a lot of employees that worked for her. But when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, she had to step back and let her employees take over the company. As I said before, she is an independent woman. It was hard for her to give someone else the reins of her company. She had cancer for a while and ended up being in remission, which [which went really well], and it was looking up. I believe she did a couple of rounds of chemo, and [the cancer] ended up coming back, which led to another round of chemo. She ended up beating it. My whole family went down to visit her for Thanksgiving, and she read us a letter letting us know that the cancer was gone. It was very emotional for all of us, and my family teared up with joy. 

Q: What is one thing you wish people knew about breast cancer?

Shelby Lopez: When I was young and found out that my grandma had cancer, [I didn’t know] there would be more information about the disease. I didn’t really know what was going on and [just watched] it all happen. It would have been devastating if I lost her and didn’t know why she was gone and what happened to her. So, if you have more information [about breast cancer] for your kids who are [experiencing] a family member or someone close to them being diagnosed with breast cancer, [share it with them]. 

Breast cancer awareness month is a time to spread awareness about the disease, gain knowledge and perspectives on what breast cancer is and how loved ones are affected by it. You are able to learn more about breast cancer and donate to the cause to help women in need by visiting the National Breast Cancer Foundation