The day cancer changed my life is difficult to reflect on. Three years ago in June, I received a call from my mom on the day I returned home from my honeymoon. The cloud I had been floating on vanished at the words breast cancer and in some ways my life has never been the same since. The emotion I felt when my mom told me she had breast cancer is hard to describe – it was a combination of fear, uncertainty, disbelief, and sadness all sitting together, nestled in the pit of my stomach. The reason I decided to share this story is for two reasons, in celebration of Breast Cancer Awareness Month and my mom, despite being diagnosed with cancer, is considered “one of the lucky ones” in part because of her early detection. For those of you reading who are fearful of doctors visits or live with the mindset “ignorance is bliss”, this story is proof that early detection can save your life.
My mom’s story is probably not unlike many you’ve read before, a minuscule tumor was found at a routine mammogram appointment. Her regularly scheduled appointment landed the week following my wedding, an exciting, emotional, and hectic time for the entire family. After her diagnosis, she readily admitted it wasn’t a great time and had thought about rescheduling the appointment a number of times – she kept the appointment. Out of the several scans taken, the tumor only appeared on one – it was that early. Had she gone several months earlier or several months later, the story I’m now telling could have included several more chapters. Despite the craziness of life, the inconvenience, the fear – she is proof that early detection works.
It’s hard to say anyone diagnosed with cancer is “lucky”, but she was. She endured a lumpectomy and 18 rounds of radiation. Her form of breast cancer was slow moving and not aggressive. As my family embarked on this journey with her, we felt confident in her diagnosis, but once the doors of cancer are blown open – they are open. Feelings of concern, fear, and sympathy were commonplace and admittedly, it was a challenging time for everyone. Thankfully however, she’s remained cancer free for the last three years.
Once you’ve been touched by cancer, life is never really the same – nor should it be. The world I once lived in, where these types of things don’t happen to me, is gone. Because of my mom’s diagnosis, I will likely start mammograms earlier than most and I’ll be watched in the years to come – a scribbled note in my chart, cancer. But because of my mom’s experience, I believe in early detection – I know it’s not the only answer to beating cancer and other diseases, but it can help. Ignorance may provide temporary bliss, but knowledge is power.
1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. If you take anything away from this post, please make regular doctor’s visits a priority in your life. Would you ever miss a doctor’s visit for your child or loved one? Never – so don’t skip yours.
Please feel free to share your own stories of how breast cancer has changed your life.