My Mother and Breast Cancer
I hope everyone is having an awesome week!
As some, but not all of us know, the month of October is breast cancer awareness month. October was like any other month in the past, until my mother was diagnosed. You see, my mom is a good keeper of secrets. Especially if she thinks the secret will cause anyone, or me worry and anxiety.
Performing her monthly breast exam per usual, my mother discovered a painful lump on one of her breast. After discovering the lump, she contacted her primary care provider to have a mammogram scheduled. After the mammogram, she had the lump biopsied.
In a time of information overload, and fear, she cared more about others than she cared about herself. My mom called me on the telephone to tell me that she had a biopsy of a lump on one of her breast, and that it was cancerous. I was instantly terrified! I asked my mom, WHEN did all of this happen? I could tell that she trying to be brave for me, but I was trying to be brave for her in the same breath. Why my mom? Even though cancer isn’t an actual being, I was ANGRY at cancer. Never in a million years did I think cancer would hit this close to home.
My mom was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer. A diagnosis of triple negative breast cancer means that the three most common types of receptors known to fuel most breast cancer growth–estrogen, progesterone, and the HER-2/neu gene are not present in the cancer tumor. Triple negative breast cancer occurs in about 10-20% of diagnosed breast cancers and is more likely to affect younger people, African Americans, Hispanics, and/or those with a BRCA1 gene mutation. Triple negative breast cancer can be more aggressive, and difficult to treat. Also, the cancer is more likely to spread and recur.
I was prepared to travel this journey with my mother, and be her strength. My mom is a quiet person. Most people say they can’t read my mother, and it’s true. But, to know her is to love her. Battling cancer is a long journey. My mom went through surgery to remove the cancer, and insertion of a port for chemotherapy, chemotherapy, and then reconstructive surgery.
During this journey, there are a ton of decisions that have to be made. The first thing of concern is removing the cancer. Surgeons rarely know how much surrounding tissue is cancerous until they actually perform the surgery. My mother knew that she was going to have the affected breast removed, but was unsure if she should have the other breast removed as well? Most people think this is an easy decision, but it’s not. Having a double mastectomy does not guarantee that the cancer won’t return. But for peace of mind of cancer possibly not returning to the other breast, my mom decided to have both breast removed.
After removal of the cancer, and both breast, the real journey begins in my opinion. Chemotherapy! Chemotherapy is treatment with cancer-killing drugs that may be given intravenously (or by mouth). The drugs travel through the bloodstream to reach cancer cells in most parts of the body. Chemo is given in cycles, with each period of treatment followed by a recovery period. Treatment usually lasts for several months.
My mother was fortunate enough to be guided into the directions of Dr. Sherronda Henderson. Dr. Henderson is board certified in Internal Medicine, and Oncology. I think Dr. Henderson has one of the hardest jobs in the medical profession. Patients are guided to her for a process that can be agonizing, long, and painful. I value Dr. Henderson for her unwavering patience, knowledge, support, and understanding. My mom can be a very difficult patient 😉
Chemotherapy is hard on the body. I remember my mother being small, and frail. Her bones ached constantly, and she was just outright tired. She was so strong and determined to fight a good fight! My mom is by far my hero, a warrior, and a fighter. Little by little she lost every bit of hair on her body. Despite all of it, she was still the strong, and the beautiful mother that I have always known. Always positive, with a no lose attitude. After completion of her chemo, one would think that’s enough. Surgery for removal of the cancer, a double mastectomy and chemotherapy…how much more could be left to accomplish?
Reconstructive surgery is the last step in making a person whole that may have scars, one breast or in my moms case the removal of both of her breast. More decisions? My mom met with a reconstructive surgeon to discuss her options. Some women never reconstruct their breast, and that is a viable option.
My mother sought her version of normalcy after a long journey of sickness. She decided to have her breast completely reconstructed versus, the insertion of breast implants. This surgery and process was extremely hard on her. Reconstructive surgery is no joke! My mom actually had to stay in the hospital a few nights. She was asleep most of the time, but when she was awake, I could tell that she was experiencing some level of pain. Her recovery from her reconstructive surgery was tough, but she handled every step like the warrior she has always been.
My mother’s strength throughout this journey is admirable. I was extremely uneducated about cancer, and the overall process. The journey is different for many. But indeed a journey. Cancer doesn’t discriminate, detection and prevention is key.
Ladies, perform your monthly breast exams. My mother doing her do diligence saved her life!