Sunday, October 3, 2010

See this face? See this hope?

See this face?
See this hope?
I'm 14 years old.
No, really. I am.
I started counting every year since 
my recovery from breast cancer.

In 1996, I found a suspicious lump in my breast in May, exactly 5 months after a negative (normal) mammogram at age 35 told me I'm fine.  To say that I am the poster child (ok, Poster Mother) for Breast Self Exam (BSE) is an understatement.  

Had I not done BSE, and found this lump on my own, I might not be here to write to you today.  My next mammogram was not scheduled until age 40-- 5 years from when I had my first mammo.  

At first, my doctor thought I had a breast infection. I told him, no, there's a discreet lump.  He treated me with anti-biotics until I asked for biopsy.  Even on the day of the biopsy he told me -- you're fine -- very healthy breast tissue in that sample.  Until he got the results. Then he could do nothing but apologize. He just figured I was too young to have breast cancer.  Another doctor got better informed after I left his care and never looked back. I went to Mass General and am forever grateful for the amazing care I have consistently received for 14 years. If you ever get diagnosed with this disease, choose a hospital that approaches the disease from a multi-disciplinary approach. I have no other advice beyond that, and prayer and the sacraments, of course. 

I really "get" the "More Birthdays" campaign that the American Cancer Society is using to promote awareness during October, which just happens to be Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

For me, its a pretty powerful month because it is also the same as Respect Life Month. Think that's a coincidence?  For me, I call that kind of thing a God-incidence.

Another God incidence is my being here, as I've said.  It's no accident that I got to see my 40th, and yes, my 50th chronological birthdays. I have friends who have dreaded turning 40 or 50.  Not me. This October, I'm also celebrating 28 years of marriage... and celebrating my family too. I've had enough birthdays to have had the privilege of sticking around to raising of three wonderful children... now 23, 20, and 17.

See this nice lady with me?
This is my Mom.
When I was diagnosed at age 36, she told me she wished it had been her instead. (Only a mother might say that, y'know?)  Anyway, I told her, "Don't say that, Ma..."  She came and stayed with me for a long time to help my husband and my children (then 9, 6, and 3) deal with my recovery from my third surgery, which was the biggest one.  I was laid up for a few weeks. And still, I consider myself fortunate to have one of those early-stage varieties of bc. 

Eventually, 6 years after my recovery, Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001, and again in 2007, and yes, sadly, with a more advanced form in late 2009.  Mom got great treatment each time.  She's what you call fightin' Irish -- her Mom had a different kind of throat cancer that robbed her vocal cords... people say I look a lot like her mother.  Every time I get a throat affliction I think of her... wondering.  FYI, Gramma did not die from her cancer... she survived for years after. A heart attack took her life long after cancer was a bad memory. 

I'm here to tell you that many people like me, and Mom, and my grandmother, do a lot of living after a cancer diagnosis.  We live with it, kind of like a chronic disease.  

There is so much hope out there. If you, or someone you know has been diagnosed with breast cancer, or any other kind, get information and get into treatment. Nobody knows how long life is... and I'm not being morbid here, it's just the truth. Hang out with enough cancer patients like I have, and you learn the humor: we're all terminal!  Yeah, its a joke, but only kinda.  Thank God for God. :)

For years since my recovery, I've been raising money by walking for "Making Strides Against Breast Cancer".  
Watch this video. It's shot in Boston where I've walked.
This year, I'm only raising money.  
Seems I'll be having surgery soon to repair 
a torn tendon in my ankle, so I won't be walking 
with the throng this weekend in Boston.  Oh poo!

And next year, you watch for me out there, Boston.
I'm coming back. 
make sure you schedule an annual mammogram.
 'Nuff said. 
Just remember to do it 
because I love you.
So do lots of folks.


  1. Congratulations to you for your 14 years of survival. Just be careful about American Cancer Society. They fund all kinds of things that are less than pro-life, such as Planned Parenthood (see for info), support embryonic stem-cell research, and more.

    It would be great if, during this month of support for breast-cancer research, Catholics were made aware of organizations that are pro-life AND do good work to fight breast cancer and other diseases.

  2. I just sent a donation from having run 10km in the Summer I raised £300 almost and it was great to know that my money does help to give people a chance to say I survived it


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