Thursday, March 11, 2010

From her perspective

In yesterday's post, I shared my story of my mom's diagnosis of breast cancer. But now, I'd like to share that same story but in her own words.

Last year, my mom and I were on the sweep team crew for the Seattle 3-Day for the Cure. It was hard and fun and beyond memorable. She was honored to be a part of the Survivors Circle during the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the event. A few weeks before we went to Seattle, my mom sent the following email to our fellow sweep team members. It was the first time I had ever heard her perspective of her diagnosis.

My Story:

I am a survivor.

Four simple words…yet, four words that say so much.

I had just turned 41, at a time when routine mammograms were not done until age 45. I thought there was no history of breast cancer in my family. I thought the hardness deep in my breast was just dense muscle. I thought breast cancer happened to other people, not me. I was wrong. A handful of days after my birthday I went in for a quick check to get my prescriptions renewed. When the doc said, “Is there anything else I can help you with?” I paused and thought, “It’s time. Just say the words.” So I did.

He checked the density in my breast and said in a nervous voice, “Let’s go down the hall and get the mammogram”. In a flurry of activity over the next hour, what remains so vivid in my memory was when they snapped the x-ray on the screen. No one needed to tell me what my own eyes saw. It was unmistakable. A child of five could have identified what looked like a snowball that had hit the x-ray, now hanging from the illuminated screen. No denials. No smiling faces. Sadness in the Radiologist’s eyes; and the color that had drained from the face of the young doctor, just out of med school. I knew. We all knew. Yet astonishingly, I told them it would be okay. I told them not to worry. I knew I would survive. I knew it, as well as I knew my own name. I don’t know how, but I did. I could hear it echoing deep inside by body… I would survive, I would survive.

Late Stage III Breast Cancer was no match for me. I would get through the surgeries, all the chemo, and all the radiation. And I did. It was a long haul, and there were times that I grew to doubt that what I first believed would come true. But it did…and I am forever grateful. The tumor was the size of a large lemon, deep within my chest and had been growing for approximately 10 years. I was told that I had a good chance for five years, but not a great chance for ten. I’ve continued to prove them wrong. I just celebrated the 12th anniversary of the start of my battle against this insidious disease. I plan to celebrate many, many more years!

Over the years, I found out that all the women in my mother’s family had died from breast cancer, or metastasized breast cancer. They had all died before the age of sixty-five, with the exception of my grandmother, but she too, had died from the spread of her breast cancer. So just because you don’t think it’s in your bloodline, you may want to dig deeper. Breast cancer wasn’t talked about in past generations. Ask the deeper questions to the older women in your family. You might be surprised, like I was.

So thank you, fellow teammates! Thank you for supporting this cause. It is because of you that someday a cure will be found. You make a difference and you are helping to save lives.


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