SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, so it’s a good time for a reminder that the disease does not discriminate.
Though it’s most prevalent in women ages 70 to 74, statistics show that more than 250,000 women living in the U.S. today were diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 40.
It’s been nearly four years since Jessica DiLorenzo was diagnosed with the disease. Now, after surviving it, she’s learned some life changing lessons: don’t suppress any of your emotions or take any second for granted.
“I was just kind of feeling around,” DiLorenzo remembered. “I was feeling a little bit of pain on the left side, by my armpit and I wound up finding a mass there that felt like a hard cranberry.”
It was strange, since she was perfectly healthy and only 33-years old.
“I went to my OBGYN and I could tell by the look on her face that it was something abnormal,” she explained.
DiLorenzo had a lumpectomy to remove the mass and got a call the next day that it was, in fact, cancer.
“I was the healthiest in my family, it was so bizarre,” she said.
Her tests also showed positive for BRCA 1, a genetic mutation she inherited that increases the risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
“So that news sparked a bit of fear, a lot of fear in my family,” she added.
They used the knowledge as power, becoming more aware of their food, exercise and even beauty care products.
But DiLorenzo said in addition to that, prevention goes far beyond your physical state.
“I believe a lot of cancer is related to energy and to suppressing emotions and feelings and maybe holding on to things that were traumatizing or hurtful in your life and I just always think the best thing is to address those things head on, to let yourself feel everything," she advised.
It’s a lesson she taught to a room full of Sarasota County teachers Monday. While their students have the holiday off, teachers and staff learned about social and emotional well-being.
“This is the very first time that we’ve focused on one key topic that’s really gonna become a District-wide initiative,” explained Tracey Beeker, communications director for the Sarasota County School District.
It was the focus during 51 classes the School District offered to teachers and staff, swapping history and math for crisis prevention and intervention for their classrooms, how to deal with different student behaviors and training on helping students heal from trauma.
“We want to make sure that we are really getting that positivity and we’re really helping to spark that student to be able to say, ‘I can do this. I know that I can do this,' Beeker explained. "Is there a student who really needs to have that one-on-one? Counseling, being able to do things in a group setting, to be able to go through whatever traumas they’re experiencing and overcome them.”
From cancer to emotional stability, many experts say it’s all related. They say your physical and emotional health affects your ability to focus and succeed, which is why the school district says it sees such importance in making sure our next generation is just as healthy mentally and emotionally as they are physically.