Tomorrow I have been asked to give a presentation on Breast Cancer at work. They have asked me because October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and my mom was diagnosed 4 years ago. I could have written a long, detailed and emotional account, but I tried to keep to the facts (in the hopes that I will be able to read it without crying) because so many of us have had cancer touch our lives that reliving the pain and the suffering may not be the most helpful way to relive the experience.
On this week, four years ago my family received the news that my mom had been diagnosed with Breast Cancer. I can still remember the phone call. I can still remember how time stood still. As an only child, raised by my mom my bond with her is unlike most mother-daughter relationships. We are close. Closer than close. She is my rock, my confidant and no matter how old I get she will always be the one to babble on and on with unsolicited advice. It seems that no matter how old I am, she still feels the need to remind me to do my hair, fold my laundry before the dryer cools down, keep my kitchen counter clean and her favorite, did you eat enough vegetables today? She’s my mom.
You can imagine my devastation that she had been diagnosed with Stage 3 Breast Cancer in a highly aggressive form. She was told that a mastectomy would be performed in two weeks’ time and that she needed to prepare herself and her family for many, many months of treatments. If she was going to beat this cancer she needed to take the most aggressive form of treatments available. Her survival rate was less than 5%.
Cancer had definitely met its match. My mom likes to be in control and she was not going to let cancer control her destiny. She had already beat cancer once (when I was two years old) and she vowed to do it again.
She had her right breast removed November 2008 along with her lymph nodes on that side. Once her wounds healed she began a horrendous 64 weeks of chemotherapy and 8 weeks of radiation. She became a small, shrunken version of herself, almost unrecognizable. She lost her hair, her appetite but never her fight. She kept a binder filled with every detail of her treatment, her medications, her side effects. She researched, she prayed and she fought.
She persevered, did every treatment and beat the odds. She completed her final chemotherapy treatment just two months after my boys were born. Since that day, she has fought so hard to be cancer free so that she can live to see her grandchildren grow up. Her greatest fear while in treatment was that she would die before her grandchildren could remember their time with her.
I am so happy to say that my mom has been in remission for two years and I thank God every day for the research being done by the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. Without it, my mom would not have received the ground breaking treatment that she did. Treatment that was not available just 5 years ago. Treatment that most definitely saved her life.
While I know that the kind of cancer my mom had will come back. I also know that each day is a gift and that if my mom has anything to say about it, the cancer will not be ‘allowed’ to return for many, many years.
As an uplifting end to this I thought I would share with you a video created to remind all of us to do regular breast exams. It made me laugh, I certainly hope it not only brings a smile to your face but also acts as a reminder that regular self exams are the best way to find any breast abnormalities.