"Early detection is key, And if I hadn't found my lump early, I don't know what would have been. I am still here and I want to encourage women to do that on a regular basis."
~ Olivia Newton-John
"But when this happens to you - and I think other people would identify with this - suddenly, colors are brighter. You see everything." ~ Lynn Redgrave
"When other women have this same operation, it doesn't make any headlines. But the fact that I was the wife of the President put it in headlines and brought before the public this particular experience I was going through. It made a lot of women realize that it could happen to them. I'm sure I've saved at least one person—maybe more." ~Betty Ford
I knew I wasn't supposed to be listening. I also knew that Mama and Grandma were talking about something that they considered important. Reuben was driving his trucks around on the floor right in front of them. I was sitting quietly under the table trying to look like I was playing with my Barbies. I'm pretty sure I was doing a good job since they weren't really paying me any attention. They glanced at Reuben every now and again but they weren't looking my way. I had already slipped my pencil and a scrap of paper out. I was writing.
They didn't want us to understand them. I knew that because they were spelling. Well actually Mama was spelling to Aunt Frankie on the phone. Grandma had already whispered everything to Mama when she had first come walking across the yard. I had seen her stop first at Aunt Lucy's house. I had been sitting in the china berry tree when I saw her crossing the field. She was walking kinda fast for Grandma so I knew something was wrong. I also knew that she would come on to our house next so I hurried to get my stuff and get settled under the table.
I thought I knew the word Mama spelled. C~A~N~C~E~R I was almost sure that I had heard that word before. Mr Isle from down the road had had that. He had died after being sick for just a short while. His daughters rode our school bus. I wrote the word down and looked at it. Then I heard another word I knew ~ breast~ I knew what that was. All Girls had them. All boys had them too but I knew mine would grow and My brothers' would not. I didn't know why that was true. Just that it was. I was smart. I saw almost everything that happened around me and let me tell you. I was nosy too.. I didn't miss anything said or spelled anywhere close to me. I wanted to go get the encyclopedia and look up this word they kept spelling but I was scared I would miss something. So I sat there quiet and listened.
Finally the story unfolded that My aunt Rose had been to the Doctor and they had told her that she had this thing they spelled. I saw tears gather in Mama's eyes. I knew it was bad. I wanted to cry myself. I worried about who would take care of my cousins if their Mama was sick. I wondered if we could catch this thing from her. I slipped away to sneak the ~C~ encyclopedia. I slipped it into my barbie case, carefully pushing the others together so that no one would notice it missing. I hurried to my room and closed myself in my closet. Settling myself down on the floor I began to look for the word I written while under the table.
Cancer~ Breast Cancer~ When Aunt Rose first got sick, many many women died from breast cancer. It was an almost surety that they would die. But before they died they would undergo the trauma of having both breast removed. Months and months of Radiation and Chemo therapy. Aunt Rose was the first person I ever knew who had breast cancer. Aunt Rose went through so many things in those days when the doctors really didn't know much about how to treat cancer and research had just begun on breast cancer. I know they removed her breasts. I learned that by listening to her daughter and my oldest brother when they thought they were having a private conversation. But she lived. I was amazed that she could live without breasts.
To a young child some things seem impossible.
I tried to see a difference in Aunt Rose. I convinced Mama to let me walk down to the store and get an ice cream. I Opened the cooler and peaked at her through the swirling frosty fog that rose from the hatch lid. She was sitting in the built in chair on the end of the stores old counter. She looked tired and a little white around the eyes. She smiled at me and asked me if I had seen the new Dolls in the Store window. She knew I loved dolls. I couldn't tell she had cancer. But I knew it And I Hated it. I had read all about it in the encyclopedia and I had been to the school library and looked it up. I still thought she would die right away. I loved Aunt Rose. I wanted her to be cured. I wanted her to have her breasts back. I wanted her to live.
Aunt Rose lived many many years after she was first diagnosed with Cancer. She would go into remission for a while then it would come back. You could always tell when she was taking chemo. She would wear a pink hat/scarf thing . It sat lopsided on her head and yet it became her. I would see her at the school picking up her Grand kids and she would be smiling. Her pink hat sitting sideways on her head. I believe she treasured every day continuing to tend her children then her Grandchildren. Teaching herself to play Guitar. Learning to do ceramics. Living long enough to take care of Uncle Neal until he died. Then following close behind.
Many more women in my life had cancer and died and yet Aunt Rose lived on for many years. Aunt Agnes lived only three months after she found a tiny lump. My one time best friend Pam Richardson lived almost six months deciding not to have surgery or take any treatments when they told her that the cancer had already spread into her lymph nodes before she ever felt a lump. Apparently she had a fast growing type of cancer. My friend Thim fighting for four years only to die last year. Just Last week Mrs. Jo Anne passing away after a two year battle. So Many wonderful Ladies that Cancer has taken from my life.
I could also give a list of names of breast cancer survivors. But the one thing all the survivors have in common is early detection. I have to tell you that I went kicking and screaming but I did have a mammogram this year. I gave the Doctor hell and swore I wasn't going to have it. But in the end even I have sense enough to know that I need to do my part to make sure I don't have Breast cancer.
I had heard that it hurt. It didn't hurt really, it was a little uncomfortable for my arm in one of the poses they twisted me into. If you have never had a mammogram, talk with your health care provider. They have guidelines as to how old you should be and how often you should have them. There are new treatments now. Many more women survive than ever before. I encourage all ladies to do their part to prevent breast cancer. Do self checks. Teach your spouse
to be aware of changes in your body. Visit your Doctor regularly. Quit smoking! Have Mammograms!
I want to encourage all Women to have a mammogram this year. Men please encourage the ladies in your life to take an active roll in their health. Have a wonderful day!