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)