In the spirit of Stand Up to Cancer today (click above and learn more), I am posting the story of cancer in my family. It is probably no different than the stories of cancer in your families. It seems Cancer affects all of us in some way. Daily, we live with screenings, lumps, scares, treatments, survivals, and deaths. My story can be lined up next to my neighbor’s whose sister in law is undergoing serious treatment for breast cancer, my playgroup friend whose husband recently made it through testicular cancer, and my childhood friend who recently and very suddenly lost his mother to breast cancer. My story is just another story; unfortunately cancer is among all of us.
Growing up, my family traveled and lived abroad – at times for as long as 5 years. My father worked for the State Department and, before we could leave to any country, we were expected to endure a litinay of health tests before we were cleared. Once cleared, the government allowed us 2 years of travel before having to come back to the U.S. for another health screening.
In 1992, my family went through the paces of our screening. I have explained before that my family has a long history of breast cancer. My mother knew her chances of finding a lump after menopause would be high. And due to her health history, my mother had her annual mammogram. This time a very small mass was found. These doctors, however, cleared her for travel. They were convinced this lump was nothing to be concerned with.
My mother knew better.
She had another mammogram and sought out a second opinion. Indeed, the lump was something to be concerned with. Not only was the lump cancerous but it was starting to metastasize - there was a threat this cancer would spread shortly. My mother had a lumpectomy and her lymph glands in her arm were removed. She experienced radiation and more than 6 months of horrible chemotherapy. She lost her hair, her body struggled, it was a very difficult time. She beat it, however, and has been in remission now for 15 years.
But let me be very clear about one point. If she had not been pro-active about her health, had accepted her health clearance, and then lived abroad for another two years with her lump ignored, she may not be with us today. We all must be our own health advocates. Ask questions, get second opinions. This is your body not your doctor’s.
While fairly minor, I have also had my own cancer scare. At 28, precancerous cells were found on my cervix. A quarter sized portion of my cervix was removed. Needless to say, as soon as I was healthy, my husband and I started a family. If those cells were to return, I didn’t want to have to lose anymore “quarter sized” portions of my cervix before my babies were born. And you can be sure that I never postpone my annual PAP smear – and so far so good.
Now that I’ve shared these personal stories of mine, I am guessing you are thinking about your own experiences. Like I said, my story is one of millions, and we are at least grateful for our healthy outcomes.
Tonight, take the time to watch Stand up to Cancer. It’s Friday night for crying out loud. Nothing else is on anyway. Think about what you can do to Stand up to cancer.
What, you don’t think that there is anything we can do?
Watch this amazing story about a cancer survivor who did stand up to cancer. My mother stood up to cancer, she survived. Even if we aren’t fighting with cancer personally, by having annual PAP screenings, doing breast or testicular exams, and following up with our own health care on a regular basis, we are all standing up to cancer.
Wishing you health and peace today.