World Cancer Day: My Mom's Fight with Breast Cancer
Today is World Cancer Day. World Cancer Day was born on February 4, 2000 at the World Summit Against Cancer for the New Millennium in Paris. The Paris Charter aims to promote research, prevent cancer, improve patient services, raise awareness and mobilize the global community to make progress against cancer, and includes the adoption of World Cancer Day.
I will never forget the day I was told about my mom’s diagnosis. My godmother called me to her house, which was not abnormal, but then she walked me into her bedroom and sat me down. As I sat there and listened to her tell me that my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer I just broke down. The tears came quickly and uncontrollably and my body shook. I was scared. My mom, she didn't look sick or act sick, but she was.
February 8th my mom was laying in bed stretching out and felt the lump. It just so happened she had an appointment the next day with her doctor. The doctor immediately scheduled her for a mammogram. And there it was. Her cancer grew quickly. You see just 6 months prior my mom’s mammogram came back clear. 6 months. In 6 months it grew.
Her diagnosis was confirmed on the 9th and on February 14th she was scheduled for a lumpectomy. The logistics were hard. My mom was living in Beaumont, Texas, my brother in our hometown of Duncanville and I was in Fort Worth. I took off from work and drove down to Beaumont (a lovely 6 hour jaunt to nowhere).I arrived a couple days before the surgery. We hung out and didn't talk much about it.
The day of her surgery was strange. I listened as the oncologist told me what to expect and how the recovery would go. But honestly, I was in a daze. I sat in the waiting room and waited, I read and tried to not think. And then she was done. They wheeled her into recovery and there she was. And you know what the first thing she said was? Go. Go back to Fort Worth for your Valentine’s date. Oh mom. I tried to stay, but she insisted so off I went.
Ya’ll, it was snowing. Snowing on Valentine’s day in Texas.
Soon after that my mom moved up to Dallas and began her chemo and radiation. I took off work evert Friday to sit with her during it. We sat and talked and hung out and I read to her and painted her nails. She was weak and tired. And the chemo brain. Its so real. She would just forget the smallest things in the middle talking. It was so hard to see this amazing woman so weak and tired.
But she prevailed. She was at every night of Miss Texas that summer complete with her wig. She cheered loud and was so proud. But I was even more proud
So, its these moments that I cherish. The ones where she is there and living. The ones where E and her make a mess in the kitchen and get lost going for ice cream. All the moments she has been there for. Weddings, the birth of E, graduating from law school.
So, what can YOU do?
Know your body: early detection saves lives Not all cancers show early signs and symptoms.
However, many cancers can and do show signs that something isn’t quite right. These include breast, cervical, colorectal, skin, oral, and some childhood cancers.
That’s important to know because finding cancer early almost always makes it is easier to treat or even cure. Which means improved chances of survival and quality of life for people diagnosed with cancer.
What’s more, recognizing early warning signs of some cancer is cost-effective and, in many cases, doesn’t require any specialist technologies.
Each of us can be empowered with the right information to know what’s normal for our bodies and recognize unusual changes – and importantly, seek professional medical help promptly.
What can we do?
• As an individual, we can teach ourselves, the people we love – including teachers, parents and caregivers and our communities - about the common signs and symptoms
• Health professionals need to understand the signs and symptoms to avoid misdiagnosis and understand and encourage the value of early detection in their patients.
• Policy makers have a critical role to play. Governments can develop strategies to increase awareness and education and integrate early detection and screening into national health systems.
Equity for all Today.
Many cancers are preventable or can be cured – and more and more people are surviving the disease. However, for some people, the chances of surviving cancer are not getting better.
Who you are, your level of education, level of income or where you live in the world, or even in your own country, impacts whether your cancer is diagnosed, treated and cared for in an appropriate and cost-effective manner.
Did you know?
90% of low- to middle- income countries don’t have access to radiotherapy – one of the essential tools to treat cancer?
So on this World Cancer day stand up and be a voice. I can and I will.