There is a reason why I wear pink in October…
“It’s cancer, but I’m going to be okay”, she said as she moved around the kitchen making dinner. My brother and I stood there speechless. In typical fashion, my brother went on about his business of the night, while I, being the emotional basket case I am, immediately burst into tears. My mom came over, wiped my tears, hugged me tight, and like a true mom does; comforted her daughter when in fact she was probably the one in that moment, who needed comforting.
My mom was 46 years old when she was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. The original course of treatment was for her to have a lumpectomy followed by radiation treatments. After the lumpectomy, the doctors realized that the margin zones were too wide of an area so plans then had to change. My mom then had to undergo a mastectomy and opted to have tram flap reconstructive surgery, where they took tissue from her abdomen to reconstruct her breast.
During her surgeries, treatments, and hospital stays, my mom was the epitome of strength. I don’t recall ever seeing her cry, complain, or ask anyone for anything. Throughout it all, she continued being…well, our mom. The questions kept coming. How were my classes going in college? How were things going with my new boyfriend? Was my brother doing his homework or going to his job? Had someone, anyone, washed the towels or done a dish? In true mom fashion, she was still more concerned about us than herself. Friends and family came to visit and she would ask about their days or their lives; never focusing on the fact that she was sick.
Some people get a diagnosis like breast cancer, accept that they are sick, mope, or get angry at the world. Not my mom. She worked hard and did what she had to in order to become strong and healthy. She researched natural healing, dietary changes, and exercised even more regularly.
I don’t know where she drew her strength from. Maybe from watching her own mother, my grandmother, be diagnosed and beat the same disease just a few years before. Wherever it came from, she was an inspiration.
My mom has been blessed enough to have remained cancer free for 13 years now. After her diagnosis, she became an active volunteer in the breast cancer community, and has spent even more time working with these organizations since she retired a few years ago. She works with the American Cancer Society working at events like Bark for Life or the Making Strides for Breast Cancer Walk. She donates her time to work with two local cancer organizations in our area, Hope Club and CRAAB; whether its performing administrative work, helping a cancer patient choose and get fitted for a wig, or just sitting with someone while they receive chemotherapy to provide comfort and moral support.
Almost four years ago, the cancer returned and yet again she fought like a warrior to beat this nasty disease and triumphed. My mom accepted her diagnosis both times and fought her illness with grace, dignity, positivity, strength, and determination. During it all she continued babysitting her two small grandchildren and helping me, her single mother daughter, deal with my own breast cancer scare. Knee replacement and a broken femur followed later that year and again, not once did she complain or whine. She fought, worked hard and did whatever was necessary to get better as soon as possible all while taking care of her family and putting all of us and our needs first.
I urge everyone out there, young and old, to perform self-exams regularly and get their annual mammogram. Know your family history and know your body. Early detection is one of the best ways to fight this disease until we can find a cure. Breast cancer is a terrible disease. It doesn’t discriminate. It can affect us all, young, old, black, white, rich, poor, etc.. It affects mothers, daughters, grandmothers, sisters, friends, etc… But it can be treated and you can fight against it.
My mom accepted her diagnosis and fought her illness with grace, dignity, positivity, strength, and determination. She is my hero. She is why I wear pink. My mom didn’t just beat cancer and get better…She kicked Cancer’s butt!