Cancer sucks. Especially breast cancer. About 40,920 women in the U.S. are expected to die in 2018 from breast cancer. That’s an awfully high number, but it has been decreasing due to research and early screenings.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. I’m not sure why it’s October, maybe because it’s spooky season and the scariest thing that could happen to you would be cancer.
Either way, there are fundraisers and 5Ks almost every weekend, athletes will wear pink socks or jerseys, snapchat has half a dozen filters relating to it, and you can find pink shirts at nearly every store that say, “fight like a girl.”
All of these events are intended to educate people about the importance of early screening, and the money raised goes to finding a cure for cancer which is so important.
My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer December of 2014. I guess you could say she got cancer for Christmas.
When the doctors told us she had an aggressive form of breast cancer, I thought it was a death sentence. Thankfully, they caught it early on so she had a good chance at fighting it.
However, my mom was already sick with a very rare lung disease called Pulmonary Alveolar Proteinosis (try saying that ten times fast) also known as PAP. Basically, her body couldn’t create enough of the protein that breaks down the mucous in her lungs so it was like she had pneumonia all the time.
And no, she was never a smoker. She just has really, really bad luck.
She was diagnosed with PAP in 2003 and it went into remission around 2008 but the disease had already taken its toll on her, making her reliant on an oxygen machine and causing her to go into violent coughing fits multiple times a day.
When the oncologist diagnosed her with the breast cancer I remember my mom saying, “you’ve got to be kidding me.” Unfortunately and unsurprisingly, he was not. Either way, my mom was determined to kick cancer’s ass.
Right off the bat she had a double mastectomy, which is the fancy term for chopping – I’m sorry – surgically removing both breasts. For weeks after, she had a tube coming out of the incisions that drained the blood and other fluids from the wound. My siblings and I had to measure the fluids that came out. It was super gross, but it toughened us up.
After surgery, she went through six rounds of rigorous chemotherapy. Over time, she lost all of her hair and I don’t just mean the hair on her head. She lost all of it.
Her eyelashes were gone, so her eyes were easily irritated. All of the hair in her nose fell out so she had a runny nose all of the time. She was not amused when I told her to catch her runny nose.
Chemotherapy makes everything taste like chemicals, so my mom lost an unhealthy amount of weight. After just a couple months, I could see every single one of her ribs. It was so hard to see her waste away. I felt absolutely powerless.
I was never angry, though. I realized that getting pissed off at the world for not being fair was not going to help anything. So instead, I did my best to be my mom’s rock. I was there for every chemo treatment, every follow-up appointment, and to hold her when she cried.
We had a huge support group, though. My mom was very recognizable in our community due to her kindness, her oxygen tank, coughing fits, and bald head. People I didn’t even recognize would stop me and ask how my mom was. They all wanted me to let her know that they were sending us their prayers.
Neighbors, friends, and family would bring a dinner every other day to help out our family. We would get gift cards in the mail from teammates along with get-well cards. I never realized how ridiculously kind people could be.
Cancer sucks, but it sucks less when you have the right people on your side.
After six months of chemotherapy the breast cancer went into remission and we thank our lucky stars every day. Breast cancer sucks so hard and my mom went through an incredible difficult journey that we pray we’ll never have to go through again. However, it could have been so much worse. They caught the cancer at a very early stage at a routine mammogram.
So please, take your health into your own hands by doing self exams and annual mammograms no matter your age, because catching cancer at an early stage could be your greatest defense.