Back in 1989, I received horrible news. My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. At such a young age, I wasn’t sure what it meant, but I remember feeling very scared. Was my mother going to die? My dad, sister and I felt so helpless. Not knowing anything about breast cancer, we leaned on the doctors for information and guidance. We not only had to learn how to deal with cancer in our family, but also had to find a way to keep my mother’s spirits high while she battled this disease.
It all started when my mother felt a lump in her breast. She had a previous scare the year before in her other breast, but it turned out to be a cyst that disappeared on its own. This time, she wasn’t so lucky. After further tests it was confirmed she had breast cancer and would need a mastectomy. Once they went in, they found that it spread to her lymph nodes, and she would need chemotherapy. This was one of the most humbling experiences to watch because as a result of the chemo, she was often sick and also lost all her hair. I couldn’t believe what she was going through, especially because my mother had always been the rock of our family. She had been the one to take care of my sister and me, along with my grandmother who lived with us; all while my dad was away and fighting in the Vietnam War. Now the tables were turned and she was the one fighting for her life.
However, my mother was a trooper! She never missed a treatment and had a great attitude. I remember the day we went to buy her a wig and she was in good spirits trying them all on until she found one she liked. Finally after six months of treatment, she received the news she was cancer free!!
As a result of her going through this, I learned a lot about breast cancer and especially the importance of knowing about my family history and risk, knowing what is normal for me, screening tests and talking to my doctor about what it all means for me. I have fibrocystic breasts, and my doctor recommends I also undergo periodic ultrasounds.
Luckily my mother’s story has a happy ending because she had the courage to get her lump checked out. I urge all of you to take control of your health and if you find a lump or any other change in your breast, don’t hesitate, visit your doctor! Treatment has advanced immensely and one thing is for sure, survival is highest when breast cancer is found early.
Mom, you are a true inspiration. Your courage is an example of how life should be cherished and fought for. I love you with all my heart!