Two years ago, this weekend, September 2008, a group of women from my mom’s group joined together to participate in the Susan G. Komen Walk for the Cure. We were friends but, had never before the race, discussed our reasons for walking. As we got walking we quickly realized the impact breast cancer had had on our lives. Out of five women, four of our mother’s had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Three had survived and one of my friends lost her mother quite young to breast cancer. Then we started discussing aunts, grandmothers and friends and the list was long. It just seems nowadays there isn’t anyone who hasn’t been touched in some way by this disease.
I had been married for one month when my mom called and told me she was heading to the doctor because she had found a lump. The doctor had told her it was probably nothing since she had a clear mammogram a few months before. They decided to biopsy it as a precaution and immediately knew something was wrong.
I can picture exactly where I was sitting when my mom called me and told me it was cancer.
The world just stopped for a moment.
My mom was lucky. Her cancer was caught very early and it was not that aggressive. She didn’t have to have chemo or a mastectomy. She had radiation and then five years of Tamoxifen and she was cancer free. Then, a few years later, my mom’s sister got nearly the exact same diagnosis. We started to comb through the family tree and found a lot of breast cancer. My mom’s mom had also died of ovarian cancer which is closely related.
Suddenly, I felt suffocated by my family tree.
When my mom and aunt decided to meet with a genetic specialist to see if our family carried the BRACA gene I had to come to terms with my risk. I was in my early 30s. I had to wonder if I had passed on the gene to my two girls. I had to wonder if I would live to see my two girls grow up. It might seem a little melodramatic, but waiting for the results to come back was nerve racking.
The results came back negative for the BRACA gene, but obviously we are dealing with some serious family history. This is why when I found a lump a year ago I immediately demanded that I have surgery to see what was going on. It was an aggressive move for a lump that everyone agreed was nothing. But as a daughter of a survivor and a mother to two young girls I had no desire to “wait and see.” Thankfully, it was nothing, but again, I felt like the shadow of breast cancer was still there.
In my life I have a mom and an aunt who are blessed to call themselves survivors. I have also lost two friends in their early forties to this disease. I have had a breast cancer scare myself and have a scar as a constant reminder of it. And I am only in my mid thirties. I can only imagine how many more encounters I will have in this lifetime. We must beat this disease. For my mom, my friends, myself, most importantly my girls.
Jill’s story could be any of ours. I am blessed to call Jill a friend and yet, I had no idea that this was in her life, her past, her present.. her future.
I want to reach out and hug her, yet.. I can’t, she’s too far away. Instead, I’ll make another donation in her honor and her mom’s and her aunt’s. Please join me and help us to raise money that will result in us finding that cure.