October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I was 8 the first time my mother got breast cancer and in 3rd grade. My mom was 39 years old. While I don’t remember much, I do remember teachers and parents asking how my mother was and not knowing what they were talking about. Fifteen years later, she got it again. I was in Alaska at the time volunteering for the year at a domestic violence shelter. As I was older and better able to understand, I researched it as best I could and decided I needed to come home to be there for my mom and family. The prognosis didn’t look good. I truly feared she might die. When my parents met me at JFK airport, the first thing my mom said to me was, “I’m fine. Go back to Alaska.”
I know she didn’t want me changing my life because of her. I loved Alaska. I had been offered a job at the shelter as Education and Outreach Coordinator and I was contemplating another year of volunteering as a Legal Advocate in Bethel, Alaska. But I knew I should be at home. Of course, I did nothing but drive my mother crazy. Maybe she needed a bit of that too—something to live for and argue about. My mother is a remarkably strong woman. Sometimes too strong…
She had radiation and five years of Tamoxifen. She had undergone surgery and chemotherapy the first time. As I said, my mother is a very strong woman. I am so grateful for all that I have learned from her. We have certainly had our fair share of disagreements—as mothers and daughters do. But I am so grateful that she did her self exams. Please remember to do your self exams and have your mammograms.
And Mom, I love you.