October is, besides being National Sarcasm Month, (like I need to tell you how well I celebrate that), is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t know someone who has triumphed over or succumbed to breast cancer. Breast cancer has mercilessly ravaged my family, taking lives, and derailing some for a time, and every year I anxiously await my mammogram results until I get the “all clear” sign for another twelve months. The question is always in the back of my mind as I slowly open that envelope, “is it my turn this time?”
I have had one biopsy already – when I was in my mid 30’s. I ran out of blanks in the “who in your family has had breast cancer,” section on the info sheet at the imaging center and handed it to the nurse and asked her where I should write the other names (and this was before my cousin had been diagnosed). She had tears in her eyes. It was also my deceased brother’s birthday, so I had a lot on my mind and my knees nearly buckled with the weight of all that emotion.
When I got the news back that the lump they found was a benign fibro adenoma (read about my mammogram and biopsy adventures) I was so relieved. The doctors have been so careful ever since and I have been faithful to get that mammogram every year. I found, though that experience, that I’d rather know than not know. You can’t fight what you aren’t aware of. In this case, ignorance is not bliss, it’s death.
The memories of my mother with no hair linger, of her wigs and how she used to lift them up to let cool air in against her skin. My mother complained often about many things, but she never complained about that. It just was what it was. The second time around, she just shaved her head and let everyone see. It was what it was. It was part of the process, part of the uniform of, “I’m fighting for my life.” She’s been gone for almost 8 years now, but when January rolls around each year, I remember, most painfully, what cancer has done to my family.
I have cousins and aunts who have lived quite long lives after fighting breast cancer. I think it’s that Scot-Irish steely resolve that, coupled with the fact the women in my family are just naturally strong, brings out the “oh, yeah, bring it,” attitude that balances with, “it is what it is.” If cancer wasn’t such a horrid disease, I’d almost feel sorry for it when it chooses a woman in my family to fight with. I’m hoping by the time we younger ones come to that time of life (who am I kidding, I am in that time of life), when cancer tries to rear its ugly head, that it looks up and says, “oh, it’s one of those Mills women. Forget it! Run for your life!”
I encourage you to visit The Susan G. Komen foundation and make a donation, or purchase products that show your support in the fight against breast cancer. As much as I dislike pink, this is the month I will wear it and make that statement that I remember, I honor, and I fight.