A Personal Note on Breast Cancer Awareness
In Honor of October Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Ten years ago, I stood before my sorority chapter of one hundred fifty women and asked one in eight women to stand. The purpose was to hit home that one in eight women would be diagnosed with breast cancer at least once in their lifetime. Even though I had conducted the exercise, at that time, I did not quite believe what I was saying. Yes, it was a statistic, but it had not affected me. No one in my family had breast cancer and I had never met anyone who had. So at the time, I wrongfully assumed “it would not affect me or my family.”
A week before I entered into law school, my mom was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. My family and I were devastated. I seriously contemplated foregoing law school for another year because I knew my mom needed me more than ever. Despite the battle she was yet to face, my mom strongly encouraged me to still go. Half way into my semester, my mom underwent surgery to have a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. She learned after the surgery that she would have to undergo chemotherapy treatment as well.
The next year was a difficult journey for my mother. I saw the strongest woman in my life deteriorate physically and mentally. There were times when I thought I would never have my mom back. Fortunately, that was not the case. My mom recovered. She is a cancer survivor and she is living life to the fullest today. When she talks about her cancer journey now, she says in the moment she felt abandoned. Many of her family members and friends stopped calling her or checking in. She made new friends through the process (i.e., cancer survivors) who knew how she felt and could talk to her through difficult days.
This story is meant to be triumphant, but also a gentle reminder. Even though we all know women who have been affected by breast cancer-or even if we do not-it is important to remember to be there through the journey. That person you loved so much will change. The journey will be difficult. But love them anyway. No advice is necessary, just listen. Simply, be there for them.