Many individuals throughout the world have have been impacted by breast cancer either directly or through a friend or family member. For some the day that they heard those horrifying words are permanently etched into their brains, but for others it is nothing more than a blur of emotions and they can remember nothing more. That is what I remember. The day that my mother sat me and my brother down and told us she had been diagnosed with cancer is a day I will never forget, but also one that I can’t really remember details.
It felt as though someone had punched me in the stomach so hard that it took away my breath. My ability to speak, or form any kind of intelligent thought was gone. It was all nothing more than a haze of pain, anger, sadness and tears. Little did I know at the time, but hearing the words was going to be the easiest part of the journey my mom was about to endure.
The preparations for her to start chemotherapy went pretty smoothly, meetings with oncologists and other doctors and a few surgeries,. And then the first day of treatment came. The doctors tried to explain what we should expect but, even armed with that knowledge, no one is ever ready to see anyone they love go through what I was about to watch my mom go through. And I can’t even begin to fathom the experience from my mom’s prospective.
As the chemotherapy treatments continued my mother kept getting sicker and sicker. The first couple days after her treatment she would do little more than lay on the couch in the living room, propped up with pillows and loads of blankets, with a trash can beside her for when she got ill.
There is one day in particular that I will never forget. They all were horrible but this one will forever be burned into my memory. It was when I had came home from school and my mother’s hair was gone. I was returning home from school one day and when I walked into the house my mother was walking around the corner... and her hair was gone. I immediately broke out in tears and fell to my knees right there in our entry way. Until that moment I hadn’t let the thought that my mother could die enter my mind, but now it was there in the forefront and I couldn’t run away from it.
My mom sat me down and told me that her hair had began to fall out in chunks that morning and it was extremely painful and itched horribly. Her and my grandmother had shave her head to make it easier to deal with and get the process over. She had never thought about the reaction I would have when I got home from school and sat and cried with me.
Treatments continued and my mother, however tired and sick, continued to work. She was determined not to let this “thing” take over her life and was for sure not going to let it dictate what she could and couldn’t do. With her skull cap in place, my mother would work 12-14 hour days in a hot restaurant determined that cancer would not win.
My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in the fall of 2000, my Junior year of High School. Today she is a breast cancer survivor and the strongest woman I know. To this day when someone asks me who my hero is I can proudly say that it is my mother, because she fought for her life against a disease that wanted to take her from us and she didn’t let it win. Her attitude throughout the whole ordeal was upbeat and positive and she never once said that she wasn’t going to beat it. I know there were times that she probably wasn’t as strong as she was letting on but for her children and her mother she pushed through and fought back with everything she had. I remember her saying that this [cancer] wasn’t anything and I shouldn’t let myself worry about it because she didn’t plan on going anywhere for a long time. I am still holding her to that promise!
Although my mom has beat breast cancer, her struggle and the struggle of millions of other women are not over. Women who have survived breast cancer deal with daily reminders of the disease and struggle not to think about the fact that it could come back at any time. The only way to stop breast cancer, or any cancer for that matter, is to find a cure! But their are ways to try and prevent it. Early detection is your first line of defense. Get checked and get checked often if you are at high risk, you owe it to yourself, your family and your loved ones!