October has been Breast Cancer Awareness Month for years now. I have always known about it, but it wasn’t something that I felt I had to personally worry about. My family did not a history of breast cancer. All of the women I knew of who had it were in the later years of life when they were diagnosed. That is until the summer of 2016 when everything changed. My healthy, vibrant, 34 year old sister in law was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer. My sister in law’s diagnosis was a shock to say the least.
We celebrated the 4th of July at our family camp just like we did every year. Except she had just gone for her annual checkup, and her OBGYN found a lump. We have always been close, so she encouraged me to feel the lump. It felt scary, but there was no way that it was anything. This was MY sister in law. She was too YOUNG. She had no family history and 2 young girls. This was probably just a fluke. She was going for a mammogram after the holiday and I just knew it would be fine.
Except it wasn’t fine. It was cancer, and it was devastating.
I was having lunch with my kids and grandma when I got the call from my father in law. He couldn’t reach my husband. I went home and cried my eyes out. How could this happen??? The girls need her. The family needs her. I couldn’t stop thinking about the possibility of her dying. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine I would be seriously thinking about my sister in law’s mortality. Then I couldn’t stop thinking about my nieces. They were little. School was starting soon. Who would take them to dance class? What would it be like for them to see her sick? So many questions went through my mind. I was scared for her and for the entire family. The journey was brutal for her. It was a strange time for all of us. I got nervous every time my mother in law called us because I was scared it would be bad news.
Thankfully she beat it and is a Survivor today. She was, and still is, a warrior of epic proportions. Everything that transpired from summer of 2016 – summer of 2017 still seems unbelievable even though I know it happened because I was there. I no longer take my own health for granted. Every year at my own annual gynecologist appointment, I make sure to get a thorough breast exam and I now do regular self exams. My sister in law’s journey taught me 2 things: