Yes, those words were said to me.
I had just learned the night before that my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. I ran into a coworker in the ladies room at my office, and she asked what was wrong – the shock, the raw emotion, it all must have been pretty evident on my face. She was not someone I would consider a confidant, but at that moment, I had to talk to someone. I told her what I had learned the night before – that following a routine check up, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. My coworker followed up and asked if anyone else in my family had breast cancer. When I replied that my grandmother was a breast cancer survivor, her response to me was very blunt – “you know you are going to be the next one to get breast cancer, right? I mean, your mom, your grandmother, how can you not??”
I was already in a difficult place that morning, and her statement absolutely put me over the edge – I no longer had one Breast Cancer Survivor in the family, I had a family with multiple people affected by Breast Cancer. Not only did my mom have cancer, but heck, you’re right, it seems like I will likely get it someday as well. Oh and it did not help that I was in my first trimester of my second pregnancy – I had no idea what I was having – but if I had a little girl, would she be fighting cancer someday as well? Honestly – holy emotional hormones.
This all took place in October, 2010 (coincidentally, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month)…my mom was diagnosed during her regularly scheduled check up. Well, sort of. You see, she went for a mammogram, and they said, “you’re good”. Due to the fact that my mom was high risk, she was supposed to have an ultrasound as well. The hospital and radiologists said that it was not necessary, but my mom’s doctor firmly believed in the ultrasound. He sent her to another facility which would not give her a problem, and it was then, that they found the lump. After much consultation, she found an amazing doctor from Sloan Kettering, Dr. Kimberly Van Zee. My parents are fortunate that they lived in the tri-state area, and had access to some of the best cancer doctors in the world – to drive an hour, and be treated by someone who has been rated as “One of the Top Doctors for Cancer in America”…well, that is something awesome.
The following month, my mom underwent a lumpectomy. A couple of weeks later, her doctor told her the margins were not clear beyond the area where the lumpectomy took place, and she would need a mastectomy. She found this out the day before Thanksgiving. My husband and I were packing up our bags to go to Massachusetts, and suddenly, it felt like another punch to the stomach. I really didn’t think we would hear negative news, again…but I did the only thing that I could do at that point. We switched our plans to be the ones hosting Thanksgiving, and made 4 appetizers, a turkey, 10 side dishes, and 4 desserts. I wanted to make the perfect day for my mom, because I could not imagine what was going on in her mind. The cancer had spread, and while my mother is not a vain person at all, it was incredibly traumatic to think she would be losing “one of the girls”…a part of her body.
Luckily, the mastectomy was the right move for my mom. She did not need to go through radiation, and has been in strong health since that time. While she goes for regular check ups every three months to a whole host of doctors, she has had a renewed view of life, and keeping busy and active and has been living life to its fullest. Heck, she was even in Good Housekeeping for their Mother’s Day Makeover edition that year (See the story here) and had Ted Gibson do her hair. Her story is absolutely something to celebrate.
One thing that hit me throughout the entire process was anytime I would share with people about my mom’s illness, they would tell me about someone in their life who had Breast Cancer. It became clear to me pretty quickly that SO many people had been affected by this disease, and in very varying ways. For every success story I heard, someone would share about the person they knew who was battling for the 2nd or 3rd time…it seemed to me that Breast Cancer was everywhere.
As I am sure you are aware…Breast Cancer Awareness month is October…next month – it will be the time where we see pink ribbons everywhere. It will be the month that everyone remembers those who have lost their fights, and those who have won their individual battles. October is also the month when it seems that everyone is raising money for Breast Cancer (my team is gearing up for the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk on October 21st).
What I am asking other women to do in preparation of next month…schedule your mammograms if you are eligible if you have not done so already and encourage others in your life to do the same. If you are not eligible, check yourself…if you don’t know how to do so correctly – click here. If something doesn’t seem right to you, consult with your doctor, and if you are not getting answers you are comfortable with (as my mom felt skipping the ultrasound wasn’t right for her) – go see someone else. You are your own best advocate.
Also, sign up now to take part in events during Breast Cancer Awareness Month – click on the links below for more information:
- American Cancer Society, Making Strides Against Breast Cancer
- Susan G. Komen
- Avon Walk for Breast Cancer
Lastly…don’t just wait until October to think about Breast Cancer. It can affect you at any time…cancer does not follow a calendar.
So, do I think I am going to get breast cancer? Do I think my daughter will get breast cancer? To be honest…I really don’t know. I will do my best to be healthy, and more importantly, make sure we are aware and educated. Beyond that, I will support and celebrate the women who are suffering from this disease now. Thank you for celebrating my mom’s story today with me. Feel free to share your stories here as well, or if you know of a company or event that is going on in October to benefit Breast Cancer, feel free to share the details as well.