I consider today my personal second anniversary of actually understanding and participating in this awareness month. As a woman I always heard about breast cancer and even participated in various fundraisers or 5Ks for the cause, but it wasn’t until last September that this awareness month took on a whole new meaning for me.
I’ll never forget the moment when my mom pulled me aside during a normal visit home. She quietly told me she felt a lump in her breast and had gone in to have it biopsied. She reassured me that her regular mammogram that year came back normal and 80 percent of lumps found in the breast are benign.
Naturally about a billion thoughts began racing through my head: What if my mom has breast cancer? How serious is a breast cancer diagnosis? Is treatment successful? Will my mom be okay?
After an emotional weekend at home, I had to return to work but never stopped thinking about what the results from her biopsy might reveal. When we were at home I asked to feel the lump. I read everything I could find about what a cancerous lump feels like and grew more and more concerned. I had a feeling this lump was the real deal.
About a week later the results were in and I got a phone call. She told me the biopsy came back and when I asked what it revealed she said “Yeah, sweetie. I have it.” I took a deep breath, tried to stay calm since I prepared myself for this news throughout the week. I couldn’t help it… I began to cry… and cry… and cry.
I tried my best every day not to let my thoughts turn negative. My family is so close. It’s always been the four of us. My mom and dad, me and my sister. What would I do if I lost my mom? MY MOM. The woman who I can call no matter what, the woman with the most positive and optimistic attitude in the world, the woman who raised me, the woman who sang me bedtime songs and brushed the hair out of my face when I had nightmares or was nervous before a big test or athletic event. I couldn’t lose her.
I began to feel better about her diagnosis once she had a treatment plan. Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, more chemotherapy… My mom has handled every last round of treatment with strength and grace and I could not be more proud.
Her breast cancer diagnosis came during breast cancer awareness month last year, October 2008. When my sister ran in the Race for the Cure 10k event that month, I saw thousands of people affected by the same cancer that was affecting our family so deeply, but I also saw something else: I saw survivors. My mom will be one of those women, I thought.
This year she is participating in the Race for the Cure event… as a survivor. Her treatment is not over yet (she still has several rounds of chemotherapy remaining), but my faith in her ability to overcome this cancer is strong.
As breast cancer awareness month 2009 kicks off, I wanted to spread pink love and share my story with all of you because this is a cancer that deserves attention. There are 2.5 million breast cancer survivors in the United States. I am so blessed and so lucky that my mother is one of these people.
If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, you too ARE A SURVIVOR. You are living, breathing and battling an aggressive cancer and every day you wake up, you are winning your battle.
Though often times cancer is completely out of our control, please take care of yourself and encourage those you love to do the same. Since this blog is about living a healthy life, I thought I’d close this post with tips from the MayoClinic about breast cancer prevention:
MayoClinic’s diet and exercise tips for breast cancer prevention:
Among the easiest things to control are what you eat and drink and how active you are. Here are some strategies that may help you decrease your risk of breast cancer:
- Limit alcohol. A link exists between alcohol consumption and breast cancer. How strong a link remains to be determined. The type of alcohol consumed — wine, beer or mixed drinks — seems to make no difference. To protect yourself from breast cancer, consider limiting alcohol to less than one drink a day or avoid alcohol completely.
- Maintain a healthy weight. There’s a clear link between obesity — weighing more than is appropriate for your age and height — and breast cancer. This is especially true if you gain the weight later in life, particularly after menopause. Experts speculate that estrogen production in fatty tissue may be the link between obesity and breast cancer risk.
- Stay physically active. Regular exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight and, as a consequence, may aid in breast cancer prevention. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week. If you haven’t been particularly active in the past, start your exercise program slowly and gradually work up to a greater intensity. Try to include weight-bearing exercises such as walking, jogging or aerobics. These have the added benefit of keeping your bones strong.
- Consider limiting fat in your diet. Results from the most definitive study of dietary fat and breast cancer risk to date suggest a slight decrease in risk of invasive breast cancer for women who eat a low-fat diet. But the effect is modest at best. However, by reducing the amount of fat in your diet, you may decrease your risk of other diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke. And a low-fat diet may protect against breast cancer in another way if it helps you maintain a healthy weight — another factor in breast cancer risk. For a protective benefit, limit fat intake to less than 35 percent of your daily calories and restrict foods high in saturated fat.