Unlike some of the other awesome girls I follow on Twitter, I don’t normally post pics on #boobiewed (when girls post reminders to check your…boobies, obviously). But when talking with Natali – @UberDorkGirlie about her epic calendar project, I started thinking about my mom’s story and how breast cancer and screenings fit into it.
Sometimes I completely forget, because breast cancer was such a small part of my mother’s cancer battle. She died after battling carcinoid cancer for over 8 years, 5.5 knowingly and another 3 before it was properly diagnosed.
But almost 7 years ago (after she already had carcinoid but pre-diagnosis), Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was good about breast self-exams and taught me to do the same. She also started getting annual mammograms when she was 50 (or thereabouts, I was young).
Because of her screenings, the cancer was caught early and things went smoothly. The treatment wasn’t ideal, the cancer required a full mastectomy. But she lived. She didn’t even need follow-up radiation or chemo, because the cancer was only in one breast and didn’t metastasize elsewhere. So after a few stressful months, it was essentially over. We were thrilled with the results.
The breast cancer never reared its ugly head again.
This would be a happy ending story except, of course, for the darker & harder-to-see-and-diagnose neuroendocrine cancer lurking in her intestines. That was found far too late to prevent it from being terminal, though she found life-prolonging treatments that got her through another 5 pretty good years (and the last half-year…not so good).
She got to go (back) to England, France, and Canada. She continued teaching Latin to middle school students and took Latin classes at the local university for the sheer joy of knowing Latin better. She read, she planted gardens and trees, and (to be trite) she taught us a lot about making the most of the time we have.
What if the breast cancer had been found later? I don’t know how long she could’ve battled 2 full-blown cancers and the treatments’ side effects. I don’t know what would’ve happened if the breast cancer had metastasized and where it’d have gone. She was a strong and determined woman, but she only had so much energy. Even if she’d lived, I don’t know if she’d have been able to live as fully.
I am very very grateful that Mom was willing and able to get herself properly screened so we had more of her for longer.