October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. This month, you will see sports teams wearing pink or a local business donating to breast cancer research.
Breast cancer awareness is something that I am passionate about. Breast cancer has affected me and my family greatly. I’m in my late 20’s, and I am currently living with a high risk of breast cancer.
I can vividly remember waking up on a Sunday morning back in October 2000 to my mom crying. I was nine years old at the time and was clueless about what was going on. But my mom, at the age of 35, had found a lump in her breast. She went in the next day and the doctors told her not to worry. Because of her age, there was an 80% chance the lump was going to be benign (non-cancerous).
Unfortunately, and against the odds, the lump was cancerous.
My mom started chemotherapy right before my 10th birthday. Following that, she had radiation, and then opted for a double mastectomy. What I can remember the most about that time is my mom losing her hair. And she had to be really careful not to get sick, because of her compromised immune system.
As my mom was fighting cancer, she was raising kids between the ages of 7-12, while working, making supper every night, and keeping up with all the household chores. Looking back now, I don’t know how she did it all. My mom is truly an inspiration to me.
As I got older, I discovered that my maternal grandma had been diagnosed with breast cancer at age 32. Having both my grandma and my mom diagnosed with breast cancer in their early 30s is scary, especially now that my 30th birthday is rapidly approaching. I was told I may have a high risk for breast cancer, and need to get routine checks from a young age.
At the age of 18 I started going to the breast clinic (right here in Fargo) every year. This is so they can keep tabs on me due to my high-risk history. Each appointment includes a breast exam, and when I turned 25 I started to have a mammogram done as well. The mammograms started as a preventative measure at 25 because it is 10 years prior to when my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.
After hearing of so many women avoiding mammograms or saying how awful they were, I was terrified. But the lady helping me was a true gem and calmed my nerves. I’m three mammograms in and I am here to tell you they are nothing to be afraid of. Yes, mammograms are slightly uncomfortable, but it’s nothing compared to childbirth!
I am doing whatever I can to make sure I can be around for my children. Having dense breast tissue and a high-risk history of breast cancer causes me to be vigilant in my efforts toward prevention.
My mom has done the genetic testing and she tested negative for every gene sequence they could think of. This is hard to swallow because this leaves me with so many unanswered questions. Were my grandma and my mom two cases of just random early cases of breast cancer? Or do we have a gene mutation that is yet to be discovered? I have no idea what the answer is.
I have concerns that other women my age don’t need to think about. Have I thought about having my breasts surgically removed? Absolutely, and that is something that is on my mind a lot more as I begin to enter my 30s. Do I often think about the fact I am at a high risk for breast cancer? All the time.
Breast cancer is awful (as are all kinds of cancer). It can rip apart families, make loved ones very sick, and even make the children of the cancer patients question their own futures. Know that you are not alone. I am the granddaughter and daughter of breast cancer survivors. I pray one day my children never have to say those words as I try my best to keep myself healthy.