It seems everyone has vivid memories of certain times in history, be it worldwide or personal.
A great example of this would be the tragedy of 9/11. Each year on the anniversary of this historic tragedy people tend to share the story of the memory of where they were or how they learned. Some may also share their personal connection be it through a family, friend or personal recount.
I imagine this will also hold true in years to come as we live through the current historic event of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
This theory also holds true as many seem to have a cancer story, in some way, shape or form.
Almost two decades ago the staff of the Oakdale Leader became involved in and supportive of the American Cancer Society’s annual Relay For Life event. In its early days as a local event we would share weekly stories of survivors, as well as their families and inspiring events hosted by the community.
As the staffer taking on the story telling of these warriors and their families, I found it interesting when learning not everyone had a cancer story. Simply put, as someone who first heard the word “cancer” (whispered) at the age of 10, I grew up with the impression that everyone either knew of or loved someone who had battled the disease.
It’s a story I’ve told before yet I’ll tell again. October after all is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and breast cancer was the first type brought into my world at the age of 10.
I still recall entering the bedroom of my mom’s best friend Sue and watching my mom embrace her friend as they wept quietly. An innocent 10-year-old simply popping in to say hi, witnessing the love and realness of cancer and two strong women living the reality.
Sue, a strong, gregarious, live out loud Christian woman, embracing my mom now bloated, weak and in a head scarf. Breast cancer was her battle and a dark bedroom with a bright television her respite.
Years later breast cancer would inch even closer as my Uncle’s second wife, my Aunt Bunny became diagnosed with the same disease. Her battle went long with many highs and lows. Now an adult, this was when I learned about the joy a patient feels at hearing the word “remission.” It was also the time I learned of the true fragile nature of life and no day being promised.
In 2007, after multiple battles and just months before the birth of her first grandchild my Aunt Bunny’s battle ended. A warrior of grace and hope until the end. A life not lost in vain.
Today, four decades later from that moment in Sue’s bedroom and 13 years since the loss of my Aunt Bunny, I type this from my own bed as I too battle breast cancer. Diagnosed in April with Stage 3, Triple Negative Breast Cancer I can honestly say, I thought I had this all figured out.
I was wrong.
The adamant planner, researcher and willing to try anything alternative health practice, my plan was simple – do all the things to get in and get out of this cancer thing.
By my plan I would be back to work by mid-August. It’s good to have goals, yet it’s equally good to allow oneself to be humbled at times and with that comes release of control.
Two months ago I learned firsthand that the journey with cancer is indeed a “fight.” As a runner who has put my body through things that many dare not try, I’ve now learned the true definition of battle.
Not one to keep to myself on certain areas of my life, my cancer journey will be no different. As we enter into Breast Cancer Awareness Month the take away I’d like for readers is the power and necessity of self-exams.
While the mammogram is important and equally paramount in early detection, it’s every two years and here’s the thing; breast cancer can show up in an “off” year. If one slacks on the self-exam (which I did) you may wake to something you’re not quite prepared for. Trust me on this dear readers, this is not a path you want to wake up to.
More importantly as women, aunts, sisters and mothers we must be comfortable with talking with the younger generations on the importance of this practice.
To date, I am doing well and progressing even better. My medical team is topnotch and pleased with my progress. And yes, I still have a goal date for my return to work, as well as plans for when my battle is complete.
For now, it is both my hope as well as my mission to share what I’m able and hope it has some impact on the lives of others.
So here’s to a month of both awareness and wellness. As I recently shared with a friend, we must be as passionate and dedicated to our personal health as we are about our spouses, our parents and our children. Our lives matter and our loved ones need us. Here’s to breast health and placing ourselves on the list.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.