A Family Story of Breast Cancer
By Marie Cauley
Hope contributor Marie has very personal reasons for wanting her Hope sisters to stay on top of their health.
October is always a bittersweet month for me. I love watching the autumn leaves change, pumpkin spice coffee (well, pumpkin ANYTHING) and apple cider. I enjoy the cooling weather and participating in fun fall activities like hayrides.
But October also brings about the anniversary of my mom’s death. She passed away on October 8, 1994 – just 3 days before her 61st birthday on October 11. She loved fall even more than I do, but she is now watching the leaves turn her favorite colors of orange and gold from heaven.
I lost my mom to breast cancer. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The irony of this is certainly not lost on me; we focus on the disease that claimed her both during the month of her birth and death. And maybe that’s a good thing. It drives home a single point: it is VERY important for women to be proactive about their health and get their annual mammograms, especially if breast cancer runs in the family.
Boy, does it ever run in mine. My aunt, who was my mom’s older sister, died from it in 1961. I never met my aunt, and neither did my dad. My parents got married two years after Aunt Jeannie passed away. And my cousin Carol, Jeannie’s oldest daughter, also had breast cancer and passed away in 1996 at the age of 42. My other cousin (Carol’s sister) and I always have to stay on top of our breast health.
In addition, my Aunt Paula, who is not a blood relative, died of breast cancer. I have also personally known several women who have dealt with or succumbed to this awful disease, including the wife of a former co-worker. It’s hard to watch so many good women leave this earth because of cancer.
I myself have had four surgical biopsies (three actual procedures, since two were at the same time) because my mammograms/ultrasounds showed something that could not be completely ruled out as cancerous. I thank God that all four of those turned out to be benign.
Most women know they should get checked regularly if breast cancer runs in their family. But what about those without relatives with the disease? BreastCancer.org reports that 85% of breast cancers occur in women with no family history. This is due to genetic mutations that happen as a result of the aging process and/or life in general. My aunt who was not a blood relative didn’t have a family history, and neither did some of my friends and acquaintances who wound up fighting cancer.
What does this mean for us? Basically EVERY woman needs to get regular mammograms, no matter your family history. Some of us may have to be checked more often because our relatives have had it, but we all need to be checked. And don’t forget the guys…they can get it as well, even though the risk for men is 1 in 1,000. It does happen.
So schedule that mammogram if you’ve been putting it off. I’m due to have mine soon, so please join me in being proactive about our health. Don’t let fear stop you from getting checked. It would be much worse not to know – and be too late to do anything about it. Medicine and technology have come a long way since my aunt was diagnosed in 1961. Do what you can to stay healthy!
Marie Cauley is a freelance writer who also pens inspirational romance with hopes of soon being published. Her interests include health, music, dance, spinning, and Pilates. You can also check out her blog http://www.mtclosetowin.blogspot.com where she writes about faith, fitness…and the connection between them.