Each year, on this fundraising page, I write you the latest chapter in the story of my mother's fight against breast cancer. It has always been a story of strength, courage, and hope. Sadly, my mother lost her battle with breast cancer on October 23rd, 2010.
They say time heals all wounds, and while this year has seemed easier than last, my mother's passing has still left a void in my life that aches each day. Not a day goes by when I don't want to pick up the phone to call her, to complain about my day or to share a silly story. I still find myself expecting her to call me each day, just to check in. Yet there are times when I find it hard to remember her voice, and I'm shocked at how fast my memory can fade. Why must the memories of her illness be the ones that are always the easiest to conjure? I want to remember the good times! Her laugh and her smile, the parties we had. These are the things I never want to forget. That is why I will continue on with the Race for the Cure every year. I remember how much it meant to her just to finish. The tears of joy and her beaming smile when she was handed that rose each time she crossed the finish line. Every year, I watched her walk, and sometimes it was a struggle to make it to the finish. But I noticed something about her.... Every year, no matter what, she would walk faster as she neared the end. She faced each race with the same courage and strength that she used to battle breast cancer. Never giving up, and fighting even harder when she thought the end was near. The Race for the Cure was her way of standing defiant in the face of cancer, and taking charge of her life - if only for a moment. She may have never finished first, but in her eyes - just finishing that race made her a winner.... a survivor. And even though she is no longer with us, that is how I will always remember her.
Year after year, I continue to add new chapters to my story. A few years ago, after encouragment from my doctor, I went to the Mercy Cancer Center for genetic testing. It was a very difficult decision for me, but in the end I decided that there is no power greater than the power of knowledge - so I dove in head first. There was never a doubt in my mind of what the test results would be. Friends and family told me not to worry, that only a very small percent of the population had any BRAC mutation. They tried to fill me up with hope and faith, but deep down I always new that the test would come back positive. So, when I walked in to the genetic counselor's office to get my results, and saw a nurse sitting across the table (an extra person, I was convinced, to make sure I didn't freak out) I took a deep breath, held it, and listened. I am BRAC2 positive. This is one of the genes that governs hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. My risk of developing breast cancer by the age of 50 has raised from 8% to 87%. My mother was never tested, but it is likely that she had the same mutation. Isn't it amazing, how something so small can make such a big difference in your life. All it takes is one gene, naked to the human eye, to change a person's life forever. Although knowing this dark cloud will follow me wherever I go, I wouldn't change my decision to have the test. My doctors and I will be vigilant and agressive in the years to come, and there will be many more difficult choices to make.
This last year, I added yet another new chapter to my story. As many of you are already aware, I went to the Dr in April for one of my routine check ups and my physician felt a very small lump on my throat. She was certain it was nothing, but due to my family history thought it would be best to have an ultrasound to be safe. The ultrasound was inconclusive, so I then had a biopsy. A few days later I got the results and was diagnosed with pappillary thryoid cancer. I was devastated. I felt so unprepared. All of this time, I was preparing myself for the inevitability of breast cancer, but not this. I knew that someday I might be faced with the big C, but not now. Not yet. I called my best friend and cried. There were so many emotions swirling around in my head. I was terrfied, scared of my now uncertain future. I was sad that my mom and dad weren't there to comfort and support me. I was angry that I was only 32 and having to deal with this bullshit. I was in shock, and didn't know what to do. After a day or two of being an emotional hot mess, I had a moment of clarity. My mom, my strong, beautiful mom had felt this way too. She too had cried - had hidden her tears and fears from the people she cared about. She had been here, in this moment, and survived. I knew that the road wouldn't be easy - and it sure hasn't been, but my mom didn't raise a coward. She may not have been here to hold me, or brush away my tears. She couldn't visit me in the hospital or watch lifetime with me on the couch while I recovered. But she gave me something better. Engrained in me is the same strength and courage that she fought with everyday, and I will forever be thankful to her for that. I will always be proud to be her daughter, and will never stop trying to make her proud of me in return.
So, what am I doing?
I don't do this for sympathy or pity. After all, as my mother would say, it is what it is. There's nothing anyone of us can do to change what happened. Her fight was long, and hard, and being there for her helped me become the person that I am today. I do this as a show of support for all women who have had to face breast cancer. I do this for my mother, and my grandmother - who have both lost their lives to this disease. And if that's not reason enough, then just look at the statistics. 1 in 8 American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their life. Just think of that number - now think of how many women you know. Now, think of the families of those women - and the women that they know. All of that pain and suffering, for what? A lump. A lump of malignant cells, ruining lives. Doesn't that just sound ridiculous? I do this, so that maybe someday, we can all live in a world free of breast cancer, and all of the suffering that it brings. I've always said that no one should have to walk alone, so please - just join Debbie's GlowWorms, and walk with us. If not for my mother, or yours, then just for the simple hope of someday.
If you don't wish to walk with us, you can donate money to the Susan G Komen Foundation.
You may donate online with your credit card by clicking the "Donate" button at the top of this page. Your support helps us get another step closer to a world without breast cancer.