Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is breast cancer awareness month. It is bitter-sweet for me. I am glad that we have the attention focused where it should be, yet it makes me sad. My mom had breast cancer and well…she didn’t survive. It was a long, difficult, unrewarding battle and it has made a huge impression in my heart. There is not a week that goes by that I don’t think about her.

When I was 8 or 9 we moved into an old house. This house needed a LOT of work and my mom, brother and I were the only ones around to work on it. We sanded, painted, knocked down walls, tore up the kitchen, and everything else that needed to be done to make it livable. My brother and I had to do all of the ladder work – anything that required reaching over our heads because my mom had a really sore shoulder. This would turn out to be the beginning of the warning signs that she was sick – but none of us really gave it much merit. She didn’t go to the doctor and the cancer festered.

When I was 20 years old my mom came down with the worst cold I have seen. Her breathing was funny, and she coughed a lot. I would compare it to smokers cough. She worked at the hospital at the time as an RN and went down to the emergency room to have someone take a look at her. At this time, it had been 15 years since she had been to the doctor for anything. They took a chest x-ray and scheduled a follow up for Monday morning with an oncologist. Apparently there was a large lump in her breast and her lungs had fluid in them. They didn’t indicate that it was related at the time (at least not to me – but as it turns out I wasn’t told a lot of things).

I took my mom to the doctor. I sat in the waiting room – because she said it wasn’t a big deal and didn’t need me in the room with her. They scheduled her for a biopsy to “check and see if it was cancer” according to my mother. I still wasn’t very concerned – she didn’t seem to be worried at all, so I didn’t think there was a huge issue. I was very, very wrong.

My boyfriend went with me when my mom had the biopsy. When she had been in surgery for about an hour, the surgeon came out and sat down with us. He told me that he was very, very sorry – but that the cancer had progressed to the point where they could not remove it – that there was no way surgery would fix the damage. He said that the cancer had been growing for at least a decade, and was too wide-spread to remove. they simply closed her up and would be starting her on chemo in week. To say I was stunned is the understatement of the year… I was not prepared for that kind of outcome.

Months of chemo. In and out of the hospital. A rushed wedding so that my mom could see me married. A rushed pregnancy so that she could meet her first grandchild. Life just flew past me and I couldn’t slow it down. Chemo didn’t work. The cancer spread to her lungs, bones, kidneys, brain. What started as a lump in her breast ended up eating her body and her mind. She died 2 months before her granddaughter, my first daughter, was born. I sure do miss her.

There is a lesson to be learned here: GO TO THE DOCTOR FOR CHECKUPS EVERY DAMN YEAR.