It start out as just a little lump for my Aunt Margaret.
A cancer diagnosis is always a shock. Even when we are taking extra steps because it runs in the family, there is always the hope that we won't get it. Even though breast cancer survival rates are high, there is no guarantee. For some it is easier to just ignore the possibility of breast cancer and let the nurse or doctor check us at our yearly appointment. Yet others check daily or monthly without fail because we know that our risk is higher or we are just that considered about it.
My Aunt Margaret was diagnosed with breast cancer after finding a lump during her daily routine. I was really worried about her because she lives in the country and she doesn't have a cancer center nearby. Luckily for her, breast cancer is so common that even the small oncologist offices can handle it. Still it wasn't easy; as anyone who has went through treatment for breast cancer knows.
I didn't talk to her about the specifics of her mastectomy but I know how I would feel if I had to make a decision about it. I would feel like I was losing a large part of myself and I would probably need some help adjusting to life afterwards. I know that my Aunt joined a breast cancer survivor's support group and I believe that they really helped her because she is back to her old self.
As she was going through the chemotherapies, she got really sick but I had expected it and was ready to see her that way. Still it was hard to see her go through the chemotherapy because I wasn't ready for her to lose so much weight. She lost about 50 lbs over the course of 6 months and it was very noticeable. It seemed like she was wasting away in front of my eyes. I could only pray each day that God would give her the strength to get through the treatments.
The happy news is that she did make it through and is still cancer free two years later! I don't see her as much now because they spend a lot of time at their cabin up north. She and my uncle are just enjoying life in the way that makes them the happiest. I do know that she was able to participate in a run for breast cancer this summer and she was very excited to be able to run the whole way. Yet another positive breast cancer survival story.
A good friend of mine, Janice, was diagnosed with breast cancer last year. She said that she usually did monthly checks but still the cancer had progressed before she found a lump. To top it off, she had just moved to a new state when she found the cancer and her husband and children hadn't joined her. I wasn't able to help her a lot since I was a few states away but I was able to help the rest of her family pack up quickly so they could get to her.
Janice's battle was long and hard, she was out of contact for weeks at time when she felt at her worst. Last month she called to say that she was finally celebrating being cancer free. She still gets tired easy and she has a ways to go before she feels healthy again. She is just happy to be finished with the chemotherapy and radiation.
Even though breast cancer does not run in my family (my aunt is not a blood relative), knowing people who have gone through it has made me more aware. Personally I make sure to complete my monthly breast exams to be on the safe side. When I think about what women with breast cancer have to go through, I feel very frustrated.
We have made so many advances in medicine and there has been so much research into breast cancer but still the best option is to use chemotherapy to kill the cancer. Unfortunately these medicines are poisons and they damage healthy parts of our bodies. I just don't understand why we don't have a cure for breast cancer yet. So until we have a cure, I rejoice every time I hear or read a story about breast cancer survival where the woman says that she is completely healthy.