Yesterday I wrote about my mother’s diagnosis with cancer. Despite all the treatment she received and all the prayers said on her behalf, the cancer spread rapidly and she died the year I was ten, one short year after her diagnosis with breast cancer.
My mother was 31 years old.
I have now lived nearly two thirds of my life without my mother. I remember her, but not as well as I would like. I am lucky that I have had people to ask about her over the years. She also evidently enjoyed writing, as I once found a notebook filled with poetry and a partially-used diary along with a couple of papers she wrote while in college. I treasure these things for the insight they’ve given me into a woman I barely got the chance to know and for the insight into the child that I used to be.
I am 28 and I worry that I will not see my children grow. I don’t believe that genetic testing to see if I have either of the BRCA genes is a good decision, regardless of whether or not my insurance would cover it, because I could get cancer even if I don’t have the gene and if I did have the gene, it’s no guarantee that I would someday suffer from cancer.
I do self-exams (perhaps not as often as I should, but I do perform them) and I’ve had two mammograms already. When I had my annual exam last week and I mentioned my interest to my doctor, he cocked his head and asked, “Don’t you think you’re a little young?” But when I explained my family history, his entire demeanor changed. I had an order for a mammogram within a minute.
I know this is somewhat off-topic for a memoir and backstory challenge, but this is something that has affected my entire life so, if you’ll excuse me, I’d like to take a moment and talk about this and to urge everyone to do breast self-exams and undergo mammograms promptly as soon as your doctor recommends it.
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I find it hard to believe there is a person left in America who is not aware of breast cancer and the dangers it poses to one’s health. I almost wrote the dangers it poses to women’s health, but I stopped myself – men suffer from breast cancer, too, although it is much more rare. Anyway, I think what is needed is less awareness and more research. Breast cancer research is underfunded and will stay that way unless we do what we can to help it along. For some wonderful ideas, visit Susan Niebur’s blog, Toddler Planet, and click on the Act tab. Susan suffered from inflammatory breast cancer, which presents with no lump and is very aggressive. She passed away in February, leaving behind a husband and two small sons. I found her blog inspiring for so many reasons, and was so sad when I learned of her passing.
And now I’ll climb down from my soap box. Tomorrow I’ll return to less weighty subjects. Oh, wait – tomorrow I start middle school. Well, so much for that idea…
(c) 2012. All rights reserved.
- Family history has role in determining breast cancer risk (tauntongazette.com)
- Breast Cancer Risk Factors (cancercenter.com)
- Breast Cancer Symptoms (cancercenter.com)
22 thoughts on “Ten is for friends”
I love that you found some of your mom’s writing. That must have been such an amazing find.
I think what is needed is less awareness and more research.
True story. And sometimes I think people need to hear stories like yours so it becomes “real” for them when they see people they know can benefit from research. Maybe it makes people more likely to donate time/funds.
It really was. I wish I could have found more of it, but my dad got rid of a lot of things before I was old enough to really start poking around where I probably didn’t belong. I’ve got all of my diaries on a bookshelf on my desk so that if I want to research something they’re easily accessible, and hers is there alongside mine. It’s just a shame she stopped writing a few pages in.
I lost my mother too, when I was very young. It leaves a huge gap in your life, which can never quite be filled.
Yes, it does. When she died, I lost my dad in a way, too – he started drinking and more or less left my sister and me to fend for ourselves. He passed away a couple of years ago, but at least we were able to repair our relationship before he died.
I understand your worry as you near 31. Not worry – just, I know how it”s on your mind.
My Dad died at 37. All the year I was 37, I was kind of holding my breath, hoping nothing would show up. I didn’t really think it would, but it’s just, outliving a parent’s age is strange. It was a relief to pass that marker. Like, ‘well, now I don’t have to worry.’ Years later, I learned my brothers & sister all felt the same thing when they were 37.
Yes! That’s it exactly! I lost my dad a couple of years ago, but I really don’t think about what it will feel like if I live longer than he did because he was 75 when he died. But you’ve captured my thoughts about the age of 31 so accurately that I couldn’t have said them better myself. If only WordPress had a like button for comments… 😀
I know that you don’t have a National health system like we do over here, but can someone with a life threatening disease really be refused treatment?
I don’t think so. I think if a person’s life is in danger, then a hospital is required to treat the patient but if it’s a minor injury, then they have the right to refuse treatment.
I took an honors seminar in college where we discussed the problems with our country’s health care system and compared it to other countries’ systems. It was really fascinating. This was about seven years ago, so it was before President Obama passed his health care reform bill, although I haven’t really noticed any changes from it yet, despite what a lot of people say. Anyway, the impression I came away with at the time was that Canada had a good but underfunded health care system while America had a poor but well-funded health care system and if we could implement a system similar to that of our northern neighbors, we might be better off. I doubt it will happen, but it was something to think about.
I believed then, and I still believe, that health care reform in America is needed, and I commend President Obama for recognizing that, but I think he went about enacting reform the wrong way. I think he should have taken the time to address the issue properly instead of rushing and pushing legislation through Congress just so that he could say he passed health care reform in his first term. Sorry; I realize that was a bit longwinded. But, like many things, it’s a complex issue.
Thanks for that. I suppose (but I’m probably wrong) that in order to have a national health system, it would have to be passed through every state, with some of the more wealthier states subsidizing the poorer. Its that right?
A national health system law would fall under federal jurisdiction and so would have to be passed by Congress. As far as wealthier states subsidizing poorer ones, that makes sense to me, but I don’t know if that’s something that would happen. Is that how it works over there?
No. As we don’t have states, unless you count Scotland, which is in effect a separate country as far as National Health is concerned, everything is pad for by a central fund.
I didn’t think you had states, but I’ve been wrong before.
Actually we do have a state. it’s a state of absolute disintegration which seems to have beset the entire country.
I suppose that’s better than the state of absolute stupidity that seems to have beset my country.
Perhaps it’s not stupidity, though. Maybe it’s genius of such a terrifyingly brilliant degree that we just cannot comprehend it, in which case perhaps I should pick up and move across the pond.
No, don’t. We’ve refined the art of the cretin into a world class sport here. I lay on a trolley for fourteen hours with a burst appendix with the nurse occasionally stumbling over me and demanding that I move it to a more convenient location. Then when I woke up half way through the operation, I heard the doctor announcing that I was really trying his patience.
Oy vey. As if it was the most pleasant thing in the world for you to be lying there with your appendix burst. And as for the surgeon, I’m sure your patience was a bit more worn than his.
However, we have Snooki and Honey BooBoo. I think I just lost brain cells typing that.
I think we have a pretty great health care system in Canada. I’m not sure what you studied, but it works as far as I’ve seen, and I’ve had a lot of experience with it, unfortunately. I don’t know anyone who’s actually experienced those “long wait times” or any other rare issues that get blown all out of proportion. I can’t imagine living in a country where everyone doesn’t have access to good health care, especially in a wealthy country. Glad to hear you thinks it’s time for change, too.
I don’t remember what exactly it was that we watched. I think it was a panel discussion held by a variety of so-called health care experts. As I said, I came away with a favorable view of Canada’s system and frankly, any system has got to be better than ours. It’s terrible.
I once showed up for a prenatal appointment ten minutes early and spent an hour and a half in the waiting room just waiting to be taken back to an exam room. When that finally happened, I spent another hour waiting for the doctor to arrive. That’s not typical, but it’s certainly not good and I was furious. Imagine if something had been wrong? And in emergency rooms it’s worse.
Really sweet that you have tangible remembrances that help you piece things together. Other people, the poetry, and more. One thing that I always tell my daughter (in case I die, as I was bed-ridden and brain-injured for 6 years): When you miss me, just look at your hands. They are my hands. Part of me will always be part of you, and no one can ever, ever, ever, ever take that away. Just look at your hands. I’m there in all that you do.
Dr Margaret Aranda
I’ve been told that I’m a lot like my mom, which is nice to hear – you know, that she had such a huge influence on my interests and mannerisms and personality despite our short time together. And I love what you tell your daughter! It actually resonates with me as well because I have my mother’s hands.