Breast Cancer. For many women, those are some of the scariest words they will ever hear. Because those two little words can totally change the course of your life in a split second. They can derail plans and change futures. But they can also inspire greatness and strength that only a woman can show.
Breast Cancer first touched my own family ten years ago now. You know, as children (even grown children) we think of our parents as immortal; untouchable. It’s just human nature for us to see them that way. So image my shock as I stood in the kitchen at my mom’s home, 8 months pregnant with my older son, and heard her answer the call that told her something was just not right. I remember the brave face she put on as she told me that everything would be fine and that the doctor had just seen a few spots that concerned them on her most recent mammogram. And I remember that even with those assurances, I felt like the world had fallen out from under me. I remember thinking “My mom can’t have breast cancer. Not now. Not when I need her the most!” You see, I’m a little bit of a selfish person and the idea of not having my mom around when I had my first baby was devastating.
The next few months were filled with tests and screenings, at the end of which it was determined that she had pre-cancerous spots. Now, let me state clearly here that what she had was not breast cancer. It was pre-cancer that would almost certainly turn into breast cancer if it was not taken care of. I watched my mom gather information and make decisions. I watched her consult with doctors and face facts. And at the end of all of it, she and her doctor decided that a double mastectomy was the safest route to go.
And, so, a few weeks after my first son was born, my mom had a double mastectomy. I was not able to be with her at the hospital since I had a newborn baby but I sat at home by the phone waiting for a call that everything was OK and she was fine. Thankfully, that call did come. I remember my dad calling me and saying “Jeannette, mom is through surgery and fine….and she woke up singing the Tarheels fight song!” I knew at that moment that this disease would not beat her! I mean, she woke up singing a fight song – she was ready to take it on!
Not long after she came home, though, I received another call. This one was from her. She said “Jeannette, something is wrong. We’re on our way to the hospital and you won’t be able to reach us. I just wanted you to know.” She was so utterly calm and I think that was what scared me the most. Well, what had happened was that during her surgery an artery had been nicked. And in the days since her surgery it had not healed correctly. So it started bleeding and one side of her chest filled up with blood. She was rushed back into surgery for them to fix the artery and several hours later, she was out of the woods again. I don’t think at that moment I realized how close I had come to losing my mom. But thankfully she pulled through again and came back home more determined to fight than ever.
Over the next months, she struggled to gain her strength back. She would sit on the couch and hold her first grand baby but was not able to pick him up. She would want to get back to her normal routine but she just didn’t have the strength or energy. And that was only the start. The following year included reconstructive surgery, doctors visits and more. And I think throughout that time, there has always been the nagging fear in my head of “What if they didn’t get it all?”
But now, almost 10 years later exactly, my mom has prevailed over this scary disease. Through early detection and vigilant monitoring, she is healthy, happy and running around chasing my second son – one who would have never gotten to meet her without the technology that caught, diagnosed and treated her condition 10 years ago.
But even as her battle is behind her, it is just starting for many women. According to the American Cancer Society, Breast Cancer is the second most common cancer among women in the United States. But there is encouraging news as well!
The chance that breast cancer will be responsible for a woman’s death is about 1 in 36 (about 3%). Death rates from breast cancer have been declining since about 1990, with larger decreases in women younger than 50. These decreases are believed to be the result of earlier detection through screening and increased awareness, as well as improved treatment. ~ Source: cancer.org
Ladies, there is hope! But the research needs to continue and the breakthroughs need to be made. I am passionate about this cause! As the daughter of someone impacted by breast cancer, my chances of being diagnosed have doubled. This cause is personal to me. It is one that we, as women, need to be championing. With the strides that have already been made, there is hope. But to find a cure, we must let our voices be heard, put on our battle gear and FIGHT for our mothers; our sisters; ourselves!
No matter how you get involved, get involved! I’ll be back in a few weeks to tell you more about the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides walks that will be happening in communities throughout the nation. But until then, look at yourself and the women around you. And make a commitment to FIGHT so that not a single one of these precious women has to lose the battle with breast cancer. This disease can be cured. But only with the help of those whose lives it seeks to destroy.
Tell me – has breast cancer touched your life? I’d love to hear your story!
Making Strides Against Breast Cancer is the American Cancer Society’s nationwide series of walking events to raise funds and awareness to end breast cancer.
Compensation was provided by the American Cancer Society (ACS) via Glam Media. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of the American Cancer Society (ACS).