I am scared.
My mother was diagnosed with colon cancer when she was 40. I was only nine years old. Another close relative was diagnosed just a couple of years later with breast cancer.
Both are lucky and alive. My mother’s cancer was found early when it had amassed to “just” the size of a quarter. I watched as she went through chemotherapy and saw her in constant pain. She couldn’t go outside. She couldn’t work. She barely could make it down the driveway and back without help. Being so young, it didn’t make sense to me that she had to take medicine that hurt her in order to get better.
My brothers and I would always try to joke around with her and it seemed to ease her pain and put a smile on her face, which made the four of us feel better too.
I’ve been told I’ll have to be screened and poked and prodded and tested for multiple types of cancers in the next few years. It’s always there, looming over my head. And it’s not just being afraid for my own health; it’s always there in the back of my mind that if I have a child, they’ll have the same risks.
I had one scare already in high school when I found a lump. It turned out to be scar tissue from a hit taken playing soccer.
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is why these ugly memories and fears are so close to the surface.
One out of every eight women in the United States are diagnosed with cancer during their lifetimes.
That means about 231,840 new cases of invasive breast cancer and roughly 40,290 deaths from breast cancer expected in 2015, according to the American Cancer Society.
“Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States, other than skin cancer,” the agency warns. “It is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, after lung cancer.” Genetics and family history are huge contributors to increased risk.
There are roughly 14 million cancer survivors alive today in the United States. Of those, more than a million colarectal survivors like my mom. More than 2.8 million are breast cancer survivors.
Next month, my family will hold a celebration that’s become an annual bash, celebrating the day Mom was cancer-free. She buys herself balloons, Dad buys her flowers, and we all get together for a meal.
Just knowing she is still there is huge for me. I don’t have any sisters. My life would be so different had she not made it.
Here is my promise to you. It’s a deal that I’ll have to live by if you accept: I’ll get my screenings for cancer if you do.
I always think about going to be checked and I’ve been told constantly by doctors that I need to in the next four years, but I haven’t yet. I don’t like going to the doctor at all, let alone when I know he might have bad news. I haven’t wanted to face what my family members have faced.
But it is time.
We should take the leap together.