Breast Cancer Awareness
So October went by TOO fast. Halloween is gone and Thanksgiving is up next but there is one aspect of October that never goes away: Breast Cancer Awareness.
Unfortunately, I know the breast cancer struggle all to well. When I was 14, living across the country from my mother, I received a phone call that would change my life. My mother, at 39, was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer and it had spread into her lymph nodes. I cried for hours because not only did I not know what this disease entailed, but also the thought of losing my mother was scary and no one I knew had ever experienced this before. I felt so alone and helpless; she lived 3,000 miles away on the West Coast and I was just a child.
I was inspired to write this article after watching the Chelsea show with Shannon Doherty as a guest. Doherty has been diagnosed with breast cancer and has become a huge advocate. Cancer does not discriminate; young, old, rich, or poor, everyone is equal in this battle. Shannon spoke so candidly about her experience thus far and it struck a chord with me. About a year into my mother’s diagnosis, my brother and I moved to Las Vegas to live with her and she explains that this is a moment that changed her life. She had something to fight for. Seeing what cancer and chemo does to someone changed my perspective on life as well; I was at a vulnerable state in life and I was even ashamed at times when she would come to school functions without her wig and just a scarf on her head. Looking back, this was my insecurity, not hers. She went into the world so strong and not afraid of her disease. I wanted to shield her from the world and pretend that she didn’t have cancer by not talking about it with my friends. Looking back, I should have embraced it and been an advocate for her. I sat by and watched her fight this battle and win. There would be good days and bad days and our whole family came together to help her heal. My stepfather even shaved his head when her hair started to fall out; now that is true love!
Luckily, my mother continued to get better, little by little, everyday. After she hit her 5-year cancer-free mark, my mother began training for the Susan G. Komen Walk and raised over $10,000 on her own and walked 30 miles in three days. Watching her continue to grow as a woman, a wife, and a mother despite cancer was inspiring to me. She would walk every day and I could see the dedication in her eyes. Needless to say my mother is my hero and always will be.
While working as a Stylist, I learn a lot about my clients down to the insecurities no one knows about; being styled is such an intimate interaction. Recently I worked with a few clients that have overcome breast cancer and one client currently in treatment. One would think that in 2016 there would be little to no insecurity over the subject but it still exists. Women these days are so empowering and protective of each other, which leads to collectively building up our gender.
About a month ago, I met the most amazing woman who had previously undergone reconstruction. She was very conservative about her scars showing and her bust line in general. Having familiarized myself with the look of the surgery and the hesitation through my experience with my mother, I had to ask, “Did you have breast cancer?” Tears came to her eyes, and mine also, because I knew the answer. She quietly answered yes and you could see the fear that she had overcome. I experienced such an enlightened time speaking with her that day and this interaction reminded me of just how strong women truly are.
After our styling session was over, my heart was heavy with happiness because although life can be so unpredictable, it is not unconquerable.
October should not be the only month that we acknowledge the existence of this deadly disease. When I had my first-hand experience, more than 13 years ago, I felt so alone and lost. A few years ago I asked my mother and father to get tested for the cancer gene and they happily obliged. I encourage everyone else to do the same. There are so many ways you and others can be proactive to help anyone and everyone dealing with this. If any our readers have their own experience they wish to share, please reach out. We would love to hear your story!
To donate, find support, or simply learn more about Breast Cancer, visit the American Cancer Society.