Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Personal Stories
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. We asked some of our JSC Girls to share their stories about how breast cancer has affected them and their loved ones.
February 1980 …
The doctor came out to tell us Mom’s breast tumor was malignant and they removed the breast, right then and there. When she went under, she did not know if it was a malignant tumor and when she woke up, she would discover it was and they had removed her breast. It was a traumatic and horrifying experience especially since my Mother felt in her heart it would just be the removal of the cyst not a total removal of her breast. I was with her every step of the way … the sadness she felt of loosing at part of her identity to the desperation she felt the first time we took her bandages off. The recovery was hard but my Mom was a strong, christian warrior woman who leaned on her faith to bring about healing. The most positive side to my Mom’s story is she is still alive today at almost 89 years old! Everyone’s story is different but hers is one of thankfulness and completeness in knowing her identity comes through her inner strength and her story of survival. My Mom is a role model and a believer in positivity, purposeful mindset and determination.
I am 37 years old and just got my first mammogram this summer! I went in for a routine physical and Covid-testing and the doctor asked me a question no doctor has ever asked before: Has anyone in your family gotten sick in their 30’s? I had always brought it up but as soon as I explained the history of breast cancer on my dad’s side, this doctor wrote me the RX immediately. It wasn’t scary and did not hurt! Early detection and advocating for yourself is so important! I’d like to share my aunts’ stories and a piece written by Lisa Merck: Living Dynamically with Metastatic Disease.
My aunt Lisa was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer at age 30. She opted for a mastectomy and 6 months of chemotherapy. Her sister, my aunt Peggy, was also diagnosed not too long after at age 38. She had just given birth to my cousin 3 months premature and her diagnosis was stage 3. That would be enough to make anyone crumble, but she fought hard, was the best mom and my goodness was she funny! I was a sophomore in high school when she lost her fight at age 42, and I can still see her bright smile. I share her name and coincidentally now live on the same street she did when she too was a young career woman in NYC!
Aunt Lisa by this point had decided on a second, preventative mastectomy. It was still the 90’s and she recalls the doctor telling her he would need to call her husband! Excuse me?! Flash forward 20 cancer-free years later in 2014, she found a lump in her neck. Doctors told her it couldn't be the cancer and tested her for TB. After tracking down new doctors she received the diagnosis that it was the return of breast cancer and it was metastatic.
Her road to overcome hasn’t been easy or short, but her “there-is-no-other-option” courage for a life well-lived has been constant. Happy to report that my aunt Lisa is still here and living dynamically with metastatic breast cancer! In these years she has watched her children grow up and start their careers and lives. She found new love. She’s the strongest person I know. In spirit and force! She is currently renovating her daughters new house in the community we grew up in. She is now working with Pathways, an organization that provides free education and support to women with cancer as well as a training program on cancer care for doctors and med students.
She was the best friend I could have ever asked for.
She was my person.
Without hesitation, she invited me as her and her husband's third wheel to a work event because my husband was gone.
She dragged me around Lake Bottom Park with her every afternoon while pushing her twin girls and walking our dogs, so we could talk about our day.
She told me that pizza and wine was a totally acceptable dinner when our husbands worked late.
She made me go on date nights every Friday because she had a sitter and told me when I became a mom that date nights were key to a marriage.
She laughed uncontrollably with me at any given point.
When I packed the car full of our things and drove out of one of our first homes, she was my last stop for a hug and a good cry because we wouldn't be together anymore.
I love her so deeply and I can hardly believe she is gone. I miss her more than these words can ever say.
I wish she could have seen me become a mom, I wish that I could text her and ask her silly mom things, or have her reassure me that wine is the secret to parenting.