Thursday, February 15, 2007
My mom sets the pace at 81
One of the things I look forward to every June is the Race for the Cure, held in Washington, D.C. Each year my daughter, my mother and I wake up early, put our race shirts on, pin our numbers on our chests, our "In Honor " banners on our backs and walk the three plus miles downtown It's always a special occasion. That's because we walk in honor of my mother, a 30-year breast cancer survivor. Thirty years!!!! And she still walks every year, even at the age of 81.
It's a thrill to take part in the race for two reasons. One is, obviously, we give thanks for my mother's survival, but the second is even more rewarding. I love to see the look on women's faces when they notice the "30 year breast cancer survivor" written on my mom's back. Many of those walking are breast cancer patients in their 30s, 40s and 50s. And for them to know that someone can survive way into their golden years after breast cancer gives them hope. Many of them hug her; some cry but almost all thank her for giving them a reason to keep fighting.
When my mother's cancer was diagnosed in the early '70s, there wasn't a lot being done for breast cancer patients. She found the lump while bathing. It was the size of a dime. Her doctor figured it was just a cyst, but the biopsy proved him wrong. It was cancer. For a lump the size of a large pea, she had her entire right breast removed. But the physicians said she was lucky. The cancer had not spread to the lymph nodes and she didn't need chemotherapy or radiation treatments. But she did lose her right breast and never had reconstruction. That's just not something they did back then.
She's had a few scares, but she remains cancer free. She's never smoked, eats well, exercises and sees the doctor twice a year. She lives with the knowledge that she will always be a cancer patient, but she knows she's beaten the odds and that she's been sort of a pioneer in the fight against the disease.
Thirty years later, there are so many more treatments, more diagnostic tests for breast cancer, and women are beating it every day. Breast cancer is not a death sentence. There is hope - lots of it. Just ask my mom.
I'm curious to hear about your experiences with breast cancer.
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