Oddly, I remember the year it happened because of 9/11. I remember that the reason Mom was home when the planes hit the Towers was because she was off work due to going through chemotherapy.
My mother was lucky. Because of the cancer developing near the mammary duct, there were warning signs that caused the doctor to bump the mammogram schedule from once a year to once every six months. Thus, the tumors were discovered when they were still tiny dots on the scan, small enough to be removed with a “simple” lumpectomy. We didn’t know how lucky Mom was until the biopsy revealed that it was a highly aggressive cancer. Had she still been on an annual schedule or had the tumors developed in another location… Well, I’d rather not think about that.
Originally, the doctors said Mom would only have to go through surgery and radiation. One day, eager to hear news, I met my parents coming home after a doctor’s appointment. Nearly in tears, Mom rushed into the house, managed to say, “I have to go cry!”, and shut herself into their bedroom. Sorting the mail Dad had carried in, I found the wig catalog and realized what the news was. Despite the diagnosis, the surgery, the radiation, that was the moment it felt…real.
Somewhere inside, I must have instinctively decided that there wasn’t space for more than one person to be upset at a time, because when Mom emerged from her room, I was perfectly calm. I talked with her about how scary that word “chemo” suddenly made things, asked what the procedure would entail, made jokes about the wild and crazy wigs we could buy her…and eventually she was emotionally even enough to discuss dinner. We decided on pancakes; I offered to cook.
In the kitchen, I gathered the tools and ingredients I’d need for pancakes, except for the one spatula I favored – it was wide enough to get under most of the pancake and sturdy enough to take the weight. I opened drawer after drawer, cupboards I knew it couldn’t be in, even checked the dishwasher. Mom finally came in to find out why I’d started slamming doors closed.
“I can’t find my favorite spatula!”
Now calm (and I think mildly amused), Mom paused only a moment before saying, “Okay, you can be upset about that.”
And then I took my turn to break down, with my cancer-battling mother being the one to fold me in her arms and let me cry.
Since then, battling breast cancer has been my major “pet” charitable cause. After all, heh, with an immediate blood relative diagnosis, I have an increased risk and thus a vested interest in a cure! I’ve stuffed envelopes to bursting with pink Yoplait lids, bought one brand of [product] over another just because their packaging sported a pink ribbon, raced for the cure, and even – shudder – worn pink. (Why oh why did they have to choose pink as the awareness color?)
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and I’m a bit dismayed to report that I’d almost forgotten about it this year. I was up until [redacted] o’clock Thursday night, hunting for my pink ribbon pin in the yet-to-be-unpacked mess, so I could wear it to work on the first day of October. I rarely leave the house in October without that pin, but I’d plain forgot that I’d soon be needing it and hadn’t gotten around to looking for it.
So, expect some blogging this month, focusing on breast cancer. I’m not entirely sure what form it will take, but one thing I do want to do is feature companies with whom I do business who are doing something for the cause.
And yes, Mom is a survivor, still going strong nine years later.