Disclosure :: Our breast cancer awareness series is sponsored by Touro Infirmary.
I was robbed of my best friend.
Denied many classic mother/daughter milestones.
When my mom, Eve, was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was in the middle of 8th grade. She died at the end of 10th grade. Before cancer, our family of three was tight. My mom was not the kind who acted cool so I’d call her my best friend. We just fit.
During her cancer, I got busted for smoking a cigarette in the backyard when I thought my parents were out all afternoon for chemotherapy. At an age when most teens are naturally seeking independence, I was relieved my parents put me on restriction — it meant spending even more precious time with them without having to make excuses to my friends.
The after of losing someone you love never stops. It ages, ebbs and flows, but there is no end. Just when I think I’ve made peace with my loss, life shifts and I miss my mom more than ever before. Her breast cancer took so much from me, but it can’t take my ability to be informed and proactive about my family’s health. Here are some of the proactive things I’ve done or do:
Read and Share
I read, think and talk about health topics quite frequently. I sound like an old lady, asking about my friends’ health, but then again, illness has been a huge part of my life so I guess that makes sense.
Ask Questions and More Questions
I keep a running list of questions to ask at upcoming doctor appointments. An answer from one practitioner often raises a question with another so the list never seems to get shorter. I take a few minutes each week to track who needs to be scheduled for what appointment next. Among the four of us, we see: a general practitioner, OB, dermatologist, dentist, orthodontist, pediatrician, speech therapist, occupational therapist, cranial sacral therapist, and chiropractor. It’s a lot to keep track of, but my family’s health is worth it!
Because of my mom’s cancer, I began annual mammograms at age 30. Due to either being pregnant or breastfeeding or both, it’s been a while now since I’ve had one. My OB says to begin again six months after my second daughter weans. In the meantime, I do monthly self-checks. After a mammogram, I like to reward myself with something chocolately, but aside from some fleeting discomfort, they’re no big deal. Giving birth is so much scarier!
Go With Your Gut
I ignored several misinformed doctors’ opinions and was tested for the BRCA gene. I took the test five years ago, and sometimes I’m still shocked, and always thankful, that I’m negative (read that story here)! My mom died in 1994, which is the same year the test was released, so I’ll never know whether she was positive. As terrifying as it would’ve been to test positive, I know I would’ve been able to be proactive about the results.