Mom will always think of herself as a breast cancer survivor.
Last month, I wrote about my mother’s battle with ovarian cancer. My mom was diagnosed with a mutation on her BRCA2 gene — making her highly susceptible to both breast cancer and ovarian cancer. It’s the home run of cancer genes.
My mom was first diagnosed with breast cancer 10 years ago at age 54 after a routine mammogram. Digital mammograms were new at the time, and my mom was extremely lucky to have the new technology. A lump was found, and the biopsy confirmed stage 1 breast cancer. No one else in our family had experienced breast cancer — genetic testing was not as commonplace as it is now. She was expected to make a full recovery. The screening mammography saved her life.
My mom’s treatment was typical for stage 1 breast cancer — chemotherapy followed by radiation — but typical does not mean easy. The chemo was hard. The radiation was hard. My mom still feels the effects of the radiation today.
When my mom shaved her head for the first time, it was one of the most emotionally taxing days of my life. It’s never about the hair but more the representation of what it means: You have cancer. Nothing says that better than losing your hair. My mom had a beautiful wig that we named “Sarah.” It looked so much like her hair, many people didn’t suspect she had cancer.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and there are a lot of events and media reports about breast cancer. For my family, October is a time of celebration — an annual event. My mom reconnects with breast cancer survivors she has met whom she now considers friends. Shebelongs to a group called the Pink Ladies — breast cancer survivor friends who get together regularly for Pilates. To quote my mom, “Breast cancer isn’t a group you want to be a part of. But once you are in, you don’t want to leave.”
Behind every pink mug, pink shirt, pink ribbon, pink jewelry and pink hat is a woman with breast cancer. Think of that person, think of my mom, the next time you see pink.