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My Mom is My Hero and Will Always Be
She was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 42 years old in the early 1960’s. I was very young at the time and I did not understand what was happening. All I knew is that my father sent me to Florida to stay with my grandmother and aunt until mom recovered. This was a painful part of my childhood because I did not see her for almost a year.
Mom’s treatment involved radiation (which literally burnt the skin on the right side of her chest) and a radical mastectomy (where the breast, underlying chest muscle, and lymph nodes are removed). This was the “standard” surgical approach to breast cancer right up until the 1960s.
Growing up, mom rarely spoke of what she had gone through. I knew she would regularly see her primary care provider and oncologist, but that’s as much as I knew.
This was a period in time where the word “cancer” was a taboo topic, let alone discussing breast cancer and how to emotionally deal with this terrible disease.
But the times changed.
It started with First Lady Betty Ford coming out in the mid 70’s and speaking about her battle with breast cancer. Mrs. Ford’s candor brought breast cancer into the public space. A true pioneer.
As I got older, I started asking Mom questions because I was curious and to her credit, she opened up and told me what she underwent and how she dealt with it.
Her courage, spirit and resilience made me even prouder to be her son. What an inspiration!
Mom passed in 1998, but not as a result of breast cancer. Unfortunately, it was another form of cancer (lung) which ultimately took her life. I constantly remind the women in my family (wife, aunts, cousins, goddaughter) to make sure they have an annual mammography exam.
I remind them of Mom’s story and how important an annual check is.
(3) Pisano et al. Diagnostic Performance of Digital versus Film Mammography for Breast –Cancer Screening. NEJM 2005;353:1773.