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Kicking Off Breast Cancer Awareness Month: My Story

Ask just about anyone, and they are likely to be able to tell you a personal story about breast cancer. Whether he/she is a survivor, spouse, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, cousin, friend, or neighbor to a survivor, almost everyone has a story to share. Many are stories of incredible triumph, beating almost unbeatable odds. Others are stories of defeat and loss.

Here is mine.

It was the end of 1999, somewhere between Thanksgiving and Christmas when my mother learned she had breast cancer. When she broke the news to me, I remember feeling as if the ground below me was giving way. I couldn't believe it. The current odds are 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. With odds like that, I'm not sure why I was surprised when my mom told me she had breast cancer.

It was detected early. Her oncologist was confident that she'd need a lumpectomy followed by radiation therapy and chemotherapy would not be necessary. The next 6 weeks were spent in daily radiation therapy. Although exhausted, my mom remained confident while the rest of us remained hopeful. My dad drove her to her daily therapy appointments and waited patiently in the waiting room. I often wondered what went through his head during what must have seemed like endless hours in the waiting room.

After 6 grueling weeks of radiation, my mom's sessions finally came to an end. We waited on pins and needles for the results of the post-radiation mammogram and MRI. Finally, the oncologist contacted my mom with the results of her tests. She was....CANCER FREE! A huge sigh of relief washed over me. I was grateful. I knew just how lucky my mom was.

Months later, I asked my mom what was the most difficult part of her radiation therapy. I couldn't imagine what her answer was going to be. The radiation kicked her butt physically. She was spent emotionally. What she told me completely surprised me.

She said the most difficult part of her therapy was what she saw in the waiting room: children afflicted with cancer. My mom was absolutely heartbroken to see the young children coming to the hospital for radiation and chemotherapy treatments. She said her radiation treatments and the symptoms that followed paled in comparison to the sadness she felt every time she saw a cancer-stricken child walk into the waiting room with sad, tired, and heartbroken parents.

I can't even imagine.

My mom was proof that early detection saves lives. Every self exam and mammogram save a life. Be diligent. Do your monthly self-exams. Get your mammograms. If you feel a suspicious lump, do not live in fear. Taking action could mean the difference between saving or losing your life.

For more breast cancer resources, visit the following sites:

Susan G. Komen

American Cancer Society

Pink Ribbon International

Do you have a breast cancer story? I would love if you shared it with Pieces of a Mom readers. If interested, please complete the contact form, and I'll be in touch. :)

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