It was my senior year in college. I was attending a Greek Council event when my phone rang. It was my aunt. She said my mom had something important to tell me and then put her on the phone. I thought that was strange. I mean, why wouldn't my mom just call me directly? And then came my answer: BREAST CANCER. The disease with no cure. My mom had it. She wanted to get rid of it. She was going to cut off her breast.... NEXT week.
WHAT?! Why was all this happening? Why was it happening so fast? I just found out and all of a sudden, she's going under the knife! Oh yes, that's why. My parents like to withhold information that they believe will upset my sister and me. But news flash, Mom and Dad, if your health is deteriorating, WE WANT TO KNOW!
Tears running down my face. I'm crying uncontrollably. My friends comforting me, not knowing what to say, as I deal with the most devastating news in my 21 years of life. Then came reality. I had to figure out how to get home for the surgery, how to tell my professors that I wouldn't be here to take my mid-term exams, and how to tell the Executive Board of Greek Council that I wouldn't be here for Greek Week - of which I was the Chair and had planned every single event. Thankfully, everyone was understanding. My professors let me take my exams the following week. I had such great volunteers that Greek Week went off without a hitch. Unfortunately, I couldn't see all my hard work come to fruition but I know we raised a lot of money for charity.
Back at home, I was trying to stay strong but concerned about the unknown. As my mom was about to be taken to the operating room, she handed me a manila envelope. I now know that envelope too well. But at the time, this was the first I'd seen it. It contained her will. Reality set in again. I was only 21. I hadn't graduated college. My mom couldn't leave me yet. I knew how important grandchildren were. I wasn't married. I didn't even have a boyfriend. My mom couldn't leave me yet. All these thoughts and many more running through my head as my dad, sister and I waited patiently for an update to a surgery that seemed to last for days.
At last, her doctor walked into the waiting room. My mom had made it through surgery. Follow up tests would confirm they got it all and no chemo or radiation would be needed. Now, 14 years later, I'm proud to say she is still CANCER-FREE. She is a strong woman who battled that disease and won. My mom is a breast cancer SURVIVOR!
Since that time, I graduated college. I got married. I gave birth to two daughters. My mother has grandchildren and her life feels complete. I thank God every day that she is still with us. Able to experience life and make lasting memories with her children and grandchildren.
Because of what happened and how it happened, I firmly believe in the importance of early detection. That is why, at my age of 35, I have already had a mammogram. My younger sister has, too. We are not taking any chances. So as October - Breast Cancer Awareness Month - comes to an end, I strongly encourage you to perform monthly self-screenings and if breast cancer runs in your family, talk to your doctor about getting a mammogram now. Early detection saved my mom's life. It could save yours or your loved ones, too.