I love October. It is one of my absolute favorite months. The colors. The boots and sweaters. The lattes. But there’s something else I love about October-it is a month of remembrance and of progression. It is thirty one days out of the year where two causes near and dear to me are brought front and center in order to raise awareness and spread hope: Breast Cancer and Domestic violence. There is irony that October is the month for both, but for now I’ll only speak on one.
When I got the call, I was devastated. I remember standing alone in the kitchen of our tiny trailer, hours away from family and my hubby out in the field for work. I had never felt so alone and there are few times when I have wished I could reach through the phone lines. Her voice broke when she relayed the news we’d been dreading to hear: I have cancer. They had found a small lump through a routine mammogram and the prognosis was good. But prognosis means nothing when your mom is staring down the Reaper and all you have to battle with are treatments and prayers.
I hung up the phone and went to our bedroom and pulled on one of my hubby’s old t–shirts. The worn cotton was soft against my skin and laying my head against the pillow I cried for the uncertainty of what was to come. Your mind always goes to the worst possible scenario. I pictured IV stands and poison filtering it’s way into my mom’s body. I thought of lost hair and masks to keep out the common cold. And I thought of things darker, because this life is a game of roulette and there is no certainty when your number will be called.
That weekend we went home and on the six hour drive I looked through my most recent Self magazine. It was October and the irony that the issue was dedicated to breast cancer awareness was not lost on me. This was a month that would always be dear to my heart. The next few months were marked by trips to radiation and surgery. Sentinel nodes cleared and surrounding tissues were clean. The targeted area was small and though the side effects of the treatment were not pleasant, they were survivable. They marked her skin where the radiation would penetrate. So near her heart. So near us all.
Over the years we have marked triumphs. No further radiation treatments. Six months clear. One year cancer free. And most recently, the completion of Tamoxifen. It is hard to believe it has been so long, and yet I am reminded daily of how differently this story could have ended. But this story isn’t about me. It’s about my mom. My mom who is a fighter. Who is an encourager. Who has taken this history and made it a blessing to others.
Over a year ago she started walking. She decided that to celebrate her health, she was going to help those still fighting and she signed up for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day walk in Seattle. Three days and sixty miles over hills and in the rainy country. She started training and asking for sponsors and in the midst of her miles she made a difference.
My mom can talk to any one. She can strike up a conversation with the most unsuspecting, and this is exactly what she did. As she walked through my home town she bumped into various people and she told her story. In doing so she would often hear theirs, and it was amazing how many people had been touched by breast cancer. So much so that she started taking names. She wen to a local t-shirt designer and asked that they create a shirt for her to wear, and on it were lists of people who had also fought. Some were still in the battle. Some had lost the war. Others were in remission. But each one mattered. Each name was a life and each meant something to my mom. And she walked for them. These names traveled with her through the streets of Seattle. They accompanied her hills and valleys and through the blisters and shin splints. And after three days and over 60 miles, they walked through the finishing gates and joined her in the survivor ring.
I was so fortunate to see this first hand. And I cannot tell you how proud I am of her courage, her endurance and her fight for a cure. This story-it cold have been ended so differently. We are so blessed for early intervention. And I cannot stress it enough. Please, if you are of the age or family history, get yourself squeezed. For your daughters. For your sisters. For your husbands and sons.