A little over a year ago, ironically in the middle of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Believe me when I say that nothing makes you more aware of cancer than finding out your mother is suffering from it. What happened next led to one of the best – and worst – years of my life.
I remember being numb for several hours after I was told the news. But that night, I cried myself to sleep. I was afraid of everything that could go wrong with this cancer, with how this cancer could change the lives of my entire family. I felt alone. I felt like no one could understand the way I felt. No one could share my fear.
In November of last year, the lump was removed from my mother’s breast. In December, almost to the day of my brother’s 12th birthday, my mother started chemotherapy, which made her sicker than I’d ever seen her before. She had another treatment the day before Christmas. That year, we spent Christmas alone, without our extended family and friends. Her weak immune system would not let her go outside, let alone be around large groups of people.
My mom had to stop working and went on disability. Her co-workers donated Paid-Time-Off hours to help supplement her income. And some even made dinner for us.
I remember my mom was weak in body, but strong in spirit. She never stopped fighting the cancer. But I know she still had low moments.
In January my mom lost her hair. She cried as it came out in chunks. And she was ashamed of how her lack of hair proclaimed her sickness like a neon sign that said: “Cancer Patient Here”.
In February, the chemotherapy no longer made her sick, as her doctor had switched her to a lower dose that wouldn’t be as potent. My mother could go outside more and she had more energy, but she still couldn’t work.
In March, rising gas prices and a lowered income forced my parents to sell one of our cars. We agreed to sell my VW Beetle because it would get the best price. My mom and I have been sharing a car ever since.
April, May and June all passed without event. In July, my mom finished chemotherapy altogether and went on radiation instead. She tried going back to work, but she was still too weak. At the beginning of August, she finished radiation, and in September – 11 months after being diagnosed – she went back to work. That day we celebrated.
My mother is strong, and with the never-ending support and prayers from my family, she made it though.
Both my maternal and my paternal grandmothers had breast cancer. I was too young to remember, but I am not too young to be affected. With my strong family background, and a predisposition of my cells to be cancerous, I have a high rate of probability that I will get cancer. If you are like me, and one or more family members has had breast cancer or any other type of cancer, evaluate yourself every month and get checked at least once a year by your doctor. And on your own.
Men with a family history of cancer need to be examined regularly as well, and that includes breast cancer. Just because it is improbable that a man will get breast cancer, doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
Even though my story has a happy ending, many cancer patients’ stories don’t. Breast Cancer Awareness Month may be almost over, but that doesn’t mean that the suffering of cancer patients is over. Every year more people die from cancer. Every year more people suffer from cancer and families are torn and hurt.
I’m not asking for money, I’m asking for those at risk to lower the statistics by gaining some knowledge about cancer. Cancer only gets worse the longer a person waits to treat it. Get yourself checked regularly; don’t take your invincibility for granted.