There’s a beautiful story that was recently published in the Omaha World-Herald. I think it captures the magnitude of why we come together during Breast Cancer Awareness Month to honor those who have lost their lives to this terrible disease and celebrate the courageous survivors.

The article features breast cancer survivor, Karen Kruse, and what she appropriately named her “survivor garden.” The garden bursts with nearly every hue of pink from a variety of different flowers, which she first planted as a celebration for being cancer free after her diagnosis with breast cancer ten years ago. She said, “It was for myself, but it didn’t take long for me to realize it’s much bigger than that.”

When people drive by her garden they often honk and cheer. Some stop to understand its meaning, and some even take the time to share stories of their own personal battle with breast cancer. Whether it’s the loss of a loved one or fear and confusion after a recent diagnosis – being able to listen to these stories and provide a shoulder to lean on is what she says she enjoys the most.

The survivor garden represents the profound beauty and empowerment that springs from uniting to raise awareness for such an important cause.

Women share a common bond of anxiety when we enter a doctor’s office for a yearly mammogram. We pray for good news, but with the daunting statistics we cannot help but allow the thoughts of worst-case scenarios to creep into our minds.

Odds are you know someone, whether it’s a family member or a friend, who has tested positive for breast cancer. The Susan G. Komen Foundation estimates that one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in her lifetime. The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services has reported 6,714 Nebraska women were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer between 2011 and 2015. Tragically, breast cancer took the lives of nearly 1,200 women in our state during the same time period.

The numbers are frightening – which is why we should do everything we can to promote awareness, educate others about early detection, and enact policies that will combat this disease.

You don’t have to look far to see how our communities across the Good Life are taking part in Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October.

There are 26 law enforcement agencies across Nebraska, including the Nebraska State Patrol and Scottsbluff Police Department, who are sporting pink patches this month. The Susan G. Komen “More Than Pink Walk” was recently held in Omaha and has raised over $407,000 in an effort to cut the current number of breast cancer deaths in half by 2026.

These awareness campaigns are working. Because more and more Americans are making their health a priority, doctors are using advanced treatments to detect signs of breast cancer much earlier.

While we have taken tremendous strides forward, we must continue to build on this momentum. Unfortunately, too many people across the country are not being properly screened. By ensuring access to early screenings, we can increase the number of women and men who beat breast cancer – because doctors detect it sooner.

This is why I am a co-sponsor of the Protecting Access to Lifesaving Screenings (PALS) Act, introduced by my friend Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) last June.

In 2009, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force issued guidelines that would limit access to breast cancer screenings for women in their 40s. Since then, Congress has voted to postpone these measures from taking place. This strongly bipartisan bill ensures that women as young as 40 will continue to have access to affordable breast cancer screenings at ages when this disease can be most aggressive.

I’m proud of all Nebraskans who are raising awareness and funds this month. Your efforts, large and small, are helping save lives. We must continue to amplify this success and keep standing strong in our fight for a world without breast cancer.

Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.

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