In 1985, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month was initiated by The American Cancer Society and a pharmaceutical company now called AstraZeneca, producer of several anti-breast cancer drugs. A few years later in 1993, Evelyn Lauder, Senior Corporate Vice President of the Estée Lauder Companies, founded The Breast Cancer Research Foundation and established the pink ribbon as its symbol. Three years after that, at 42 years old, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was 14 and just starting to grow up.
My parents sat us down and told my brother and I that she had found a lump and a surgery was scheduled. For the most part, that was pretty much all we knew. It was a different time. Of course, we understood what breast cancer was. But it was still before the words “warrior, survivor, hope, sisterhood” were associated with the disease. It was before pink wigs were a thing. I don’t remember necessarily thinking it was a death sentence, but I definitely knew that was a serious possibility. A major surgery with a grueling rehabilitation and a year of chemotherapy later, my mother came out on top.
She is a TWENTY YEAR SURVIVOR.
Each October reminds me of that dark, dark period in my family’s story. A home health nurse tending to her. Rehabilitation to lift her arm again. A port in her chest for a year. Picking us up from school in a head scarf in the Florida heat. So very many days spent being sick and weak while working and mothering.
October also is the month that I see my doctor for a well-check each year. I have seen the same amazing OBGYN for ten years now, and we have a plan in place. This year was my 35th birthday, so I now will go every two years for an ultrasound & mammogram. At 40, I will go every year. My husband and I are on top of it. But that doesn’t mean I am not scared, for me and now for my daughter.
In 2016, as a woman, daughter, mother, wife, sister and friend…this disease has affected my life greatly, as it changed both my mother & me forever. Twenty years feels like forever and yesterday at the same time. My dream is that October opens up the conversations to our next generation about how breast cancer enters your realm and stays there forever. My hope is always for a cure.