My experience with cancer does start with breast cancer. My experience actually started with my grandmother who had a mastectomy back in the early 50’s and I remember the sleeve we had to blow up on her arm each night due to lymphedema. She lived well and a full life after this, leaving this world in her mid 80’s.
My next experience with cancer was my dad with lung cancer at the age of 69 and not too far into his retirement and another grandmother with stomach cancer. This was actually my beginning with ACS when I started to volunteer , worked on committees and fundraisers, and became a board member, The Nurse of Hope, and worked to help raise monies that in turn would help improve outcomes for the future and for my family dealing with issues related to cancer. Many early morning hours, when all was quiet, Dad and I would actually talk about how the face of cancer and cancer treatment would change in years to come. That is what research does… there are new treatments, methods, interventions, testing that is coming out weekly. There is hope and because of all the great strides we have made against breast cancer and all cancers.
Which now brings me to my diagnosis 6 years ago, I was not overly concerned when after a routine mammogram they asked me to come back for further testing. Needless to say that was not the first time that I had faced that request as my tissue is much like grandma’s gravy- lumpy and bumpy because I am fibrocystic. The doctor telling me after the biopsy that I had cancer and a former student of mine that was the nurse in the room at the time, holding my hand and crying – well the diagnosis then hit me like a ton of bricks. Life became appointments and tests and treatments and travel. I was unable to get treatment in Meadville at the time since this facility was non-existent then and the hospital /oncologists were in transition and in fact when it came time for radiation, the availability was not in Meadville either and travel was either to Sandy Lake or Erie. ACS helped with finances for all that travel back and forth and some monies went to a wig that I learned how to take care of and how to look your best and how that can actually make you feel better. This program is called Look Good Feel Better and is a program that I now sign patients up for. Patients come and learn how to put on make-up, wear scarves, and buy and care for wigs with a group of women all in different stages of their treatment and the comraderie and laughs are hard to compare to anything else. This is a high point in a calendar filled with fears and uncertainty and trepidation.
I now refer patients to these programs and try to open up the door to the availability of help through education, resources, and finances. Often when I speak and do programs in the community, I ask how many of us are or have been affected by cancer and there is almost consistently- most if not all hands in the room go up. I am a mother of five and I continue to be a mother of five. Breast cancer does not define me and I never asked why me, because why not me? Everyone in this room has something that is causing them difficulty in their lives whether it is health, finances and so many other things. I used to laugh as my husband always said to the kids as they went out the door to Make It A GOOD DAY. Under- my breath I was all but cursing him as he got in his nice car, in a suit and smiling-off he drove to work as I loaded the kids in my car and frantically got their lunches or lunch money, back packs, instruments, sports equipment loaded in the car and faced the trip to drop them off as I headed to work and often retraced back to the house to pick up what was forgotten or needed. I would laugh and say- sure you make it a good day, you can walk out this door and you don’t have to deal with all the issues I do to get out the door and then one day the light bulb went on and I realized we all have a choice. We can choose to make it a good day or not. Every morning you get up, things happen-Good and bad before you even get out the door. Your favorite blouse is missing that you planned on wearing, you got summoned to jury duty, you have a meeting with your boss, you just spilled coffee on your lap ( and no I am not going to sue as I was the silly one that put it in my lap in the first place) and these may be actually little things in the scope of things you may be facing with much bigger issues. DEALING with Breast Cancer is one of those issues. How can I help make it a good day for those facing the battle? We have come so far and changes are happening. All this leading to me making the choice to make the day great and one of my promises each day is to reach out in some way and help someone else. Whether or not that is acknowledged, doesn’t matter! I know I have made it a great day. Through Making Strides Against Breast Cancer we have waged a war that I believe can be won and also helped those dealing with the struggles of dealing with the disease. It takes each one of us to reach out and help others to make this crazy world a better place and what better place to start than by being CHAMPIONS IN THE FIGHT AGAINST BREAST CANCER.
NOW, I take each day as it comes and have learned that my life and my priorities have changed, for the better. I ask you now to join me in the fight against breast cancer and make it a great day for others and for you!