This month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and tomorrow my mom will have been dead for three months because of this terrible disease.
She was diagnosed the week before Christmas in 2005. I didn’t know at the time, but she had Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer. She had her first surgery because of breast cancer on Christmas Eve. That week I got into a small accident because I couldn’t think straight. We spent Christmas day in NSICU, Mom flat on her back because the surgery had put steel and plastic in her lower back. She couldn’t bend, sit, or walk until much later. I spent Christmas Eve with family, Dad was with Mom. Christmas dinner, to my memory, was cancelled. She went through a mastectomy and radiation, then hormone therapy. For years, until I was over halfway through college, she was stable. Things were “stable or shrinking.” Until my third year, spring semester. The first time we found out it had spread from the original four locations. Chemo. She felt sick, she was tired. No effect. More chemo. She felt great after but her body couldn’t handle the second round. It depleted her blood cell count. They stopped mid-cycle. She went to the cancer treatment center and they made a plan that they never got to carry out. She went downhill, more tired, more worn out, upset at her lack of usual independence. She went in and out of the hospital during that last year for infections. The last time was when we found out her kidney function was around ten percent. All she wanted was to go home but she couldn’t and never did. She was transferred to hospice and died there a little bit before 8am on Saturday, July 21st.
We were later told that the doctors had initially given her two years but she lived six and a half. I believe that was a combination of the very strong willpower my mother possessed and a lot of prayers. Everywhere I went, I asked for prayer for her. I covered two countries and numerous states with prayer requests, and I firmly believe prayer works. If she had lived two, she’d never have seen me graduate high school. Instead she saw me finish high school, college, and she was at our wedding. In fact, our wedding was the last time I got with her where she seemed mostly herself. After that, she was in the hospital and hospice.
Breast cancer, all cancer really, is ravaging to not just the one living with cancer but the family. Every person in this country is somehow touched by breast cancer, whether they have it, their sister, mother, daughter, aunt, grandmother. And if you have somehow managed to avoid that link, then you’re touched by another kind. Please, ladies, do what you can to stay healthy. Self-breast exams, mammograms by forty if you don’t have a family history of breast cancer. If you do, start mammograms earlier, especially if, like me, you have family history and that family was diagnosed before menopause. Another option, if you have the insurance to cover it, is BRCA analysis also called BRAC analysis. Its a test for genetic predispositions to breast and ovarian cancers. I don’t have the right insurance but when I do, that’s my plan. Be aware of your own health. Take care of your bodies.
Let’s work for a cure. Donate to the people searching for a cure, walk for a cure, heck, buy merchandise that donates money to Susan G. Komen or the American Cancer Society. (I know, I know, pinkwashing and all that, but hey, if you want a new Tervis, get one that says fight like a girl, why not?)
And until there’s a cure, I wear pink for my mom. Because even though she’s in a better place, I’d give more than you can imagine to have her here on this earth with me and my family, to have one more phone call, one more Christmas. I love her too much to ask her to be here in that kind of pain but I don’t think it’s too much to ask for better treatment and a cure so someone else can be here without it.