Around this time of year I am often reminded of how far we have come in raising awareness about breast cancer. How easy it is for us to have open discussions about it. How we celebrate survivor-ship and how we remind our friends and family members to do self breast checks and get mammograms.
Many years ago my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Looking back she never really told me what was going on but that something was wrong and she believed God would take care of her. I was living and working in another state at the time – so when I came home and discovered she had a radical mastectomy I was shocked and heartbroken. I saw where her breast had been removed. She also showed me her prosthesis – back then it was an object shaped like a small pillow, stuffed with material that she placed inside of her bra. I kept thinking why did I not realize the extent of her surgery. How could I have not known.
She was right – God did take care of her and allowed momma to become and 11 year breast cancer survivor. Those years were full of life and the breast cancer never returned. She eventually died from another form of cancer that doctors told us was not connected to the breast cancer.
Not long after she died my aunt and I were talking about my mom – her only sister. We were reminiscing about her life and impact on all of us. I said to my aunt “well, after momma had breast cancer…” and before I could finish the sentence my aunt looked at me in shock and said “breast cancer? I didn’t know sister had breast cancer!” She then began to cry. After all the time these two sisters spent together living in the same town – after all the phone conversations, holidays spent together, family dinners and going to church together she never knew her only sister was a breast cancer survivor.
Over the years I have come to understand why I didn’t know the extent of momma’s surgery. I never realized she would lose a breast because she didn’t want me to know. It was too personal – too private and she was too fearful to talk about it openly. We all know there was time when women didn’t talk too much about female medical issues. It was taboo in our society.
I am grateful to Komen for helping us lift the veil of secrecy and talk about breast cancer. Being able to share the news with friends and especially family members has saved many lives. Thanks to Komen we have come so far in raising awareness and money for research. And thanks to research we have made tremendous strides in eradicating this disease. Let’s keep putting one foot in front of the other through events like The Race For The Cure. We’ll get to our destination – it’s just a matter of time.