I don’t know if there is a scarier word in the English language than cancer. It conjures images of hair loss, hospital beds and scariest of all- death.
I had been fortunate enough to not witness cancer within my lifetime. No one in my family had been diagnosed with cancer; my grandfather and uncle were diagnosed and in remission long before the time I was born. So while I could sympathize, I had never personally been affected, at least not until my sophomore year of college.
I remember my mom telling my 18-year-old sister and I when they came down to Columbia for Parents Weekend. She told us that during her yearly mammogram they found something unusual. My sister got scared and started crying which of course made my mom cry too. (I remember my dad and forcing ourselves to hold it together because we were in the middle of Copper River Grill eating lunch and having a whole table start sobbing would’ve been too much for our waitress.)The doctors had my mother schedule some follow up tests and a few weeks later, ironically right at the start of October- National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.
It has been about a year after my mother started treatment, and while it was by no means easy, she is essentially done. The other week she had a mammogram and the doctors say everything looks good. She has maybe one or two final radiation treatments but she is done with chemotherapy. Her hair is already growing back in curly waves, which is weird considering I inherited my painfully straight-doesn’t- hold- a curl- hair from her. She is also back to working full time as a nurse. When I go home for fall break, we will officially be able to call her a breast cancer survivor.
As cancer stories go, this one was fairly easy. No weeks spent in a hospital bed or extreme vomiting. She hasn’t spent years waiting to hear that she is in remission while trying multiple treatments. I credit this to the fact that she had been going for yearly mammograms for as long as I can remember, even though she was only 53 (sorry Mom!) when she was diagnosed, and we had no family history of breast cancer.
I cannot express enough in words how thankful I am that my mom got mammograms regularly. Otherwise, who knows when they would have caught the breast cancer and what her treatment would’ve been. I believe with all my heart it is the reason we are able to call her a SURVIVOR a year after her diagnosis and not a patient or victim.
So get regular mammograms as soon as your doctor recommends to. I know sometimes people can be scared of these tests because they don’t want to hear the results but my mom’s story is the reason why you should. Early detection significantly increases your odds of survival but if that doesn’t sway you then think of your family. Think about your sisters and cousins and daughters, they all have a chance of getting the disease, but that chance increases when a family history develops. Wouldn’t you rather they be more vigilant and catch it early if they have breast cancer?
Personally, I am more aware of breast cancer than I was before. I tell my doctors about my mom’s diagnosis so that I can be prepared for the future. I plan on getting any preventative care or testing my doctors may recommend, when the recommend it. I have seen how much treatment sucks but I am so thankful for it because it saved my mom and means she’ll be here for my graduation from USC next year and all the other important life events she could’ve missed if she wasn’t diagnosed.
To read about the Cervical Cancer Prevention Act, a piece of legislation that would also work to decrease incidences of cancer, click here.