"Cancer" is still one of those words that can steal your breath, ring so loudly in your ears that your surroundings go silent, and simultaneously make your mind race and time slow to a crawl.
On this World Cancer Day, The Times invites you to share with our community how cancer has touched your life.
The disease crept into my home when I was in second grade. After an exhausting day at a preteen roller-skating birthday party, my mom felt something like a tiny stone in her breast.
The discovery paralyzed my mother, who was typically composed and stoic, with overwhelming uncertainty and fear. I was too young to share in any of her fear; she kept it from me. Still, that was the beginning of our world being turned upside down and sideways.
A scheduled biopsy led immediately to surgery. And when she came out of the fog, to her shock, her breast was gone. But so was the cancer.
Sure, she lost her breast that morning in the 1980s, but she gained more than 30 years of life, experiences and memories with her daughter. We were lucky.
Today, cancers collectively are the biggest cause of death worldwide with 8.2 million deaths a year, and that's expected to rise 75% over the next 20 years, according to a report from the United Nation's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).
In fact, over the past couple of years, the incidence of cancer rose globally by 11% to about 14.1 million cases. That's comparable to the population of Mumbai, India.
"These new figures and projections send a strong signal that immediate action is needed to confront this human disaster, which touches every community worldwide, without exception," said Dr. Christopher Wild, director of IARC, in a statement.
There are steps that you can take to potentially decrease your risk of cancer, says Dr. Alice Bender, associate director of nutrition programs at the American Institute for Cancer Research
About 374,000 cases of the most common cancers don't have to happen, she told The Times.
Eating a colorful plant-based diet, maintaining a healthy weight, reducing alcohol consumption and increasing physical activity, Bender said, can decrease your risk of breast and colorectal cancers.
"A lot of people are just not aware ... that taking these steps can really make a difference," she said.
This year's observance of the eighth annual World Cancer Day is focused on dispelling myths and reducing the stigma that leads some people to keep silent about the disease.
"We believe that the impact of our work will take time," Cary Adams, chief executive of Union for International Cancer Control, told The Times in an email, adding, "By reaching a broader audience which hopefully becomes familiar and not as timid about discussing cancer in an open and honest way, we hope to change the way cancer is viewed globally."
Whether you are viewing cancer globally or extremely locally, we want to hear from you.
Share with us how cancer has touched your life -- your story, the name of your loved one who has battled cancer, a photo illustrating cancer's impact on your life -- here in the comments below or via Twitter using the hashtag #LATcancerstories.
Twitter: @mmaltaisLATCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times