Everywhere I go there are reminders that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. My local grocery store has pink recyclable bags for 99 cents. They are donating half the proceeds to breast cancer research. The floral department is loaded with pink bouquets; pink tulips, pink roses, pink azalea bushes; an odd contrast to the customary autumnal shades and the blacks and oranges of Halloween coming up in two short weeks. In the bakery, I can buy cupcakes or cakes, festooned with pink frosting ribbons. Wherever I look throught the store, there are merchandising reminders of the importance of this month. I wear a black scarf covered with pink ribbons when I even slightly dress up to go anywhere, to remind myelf and everyone else that breast cancer still has not been medically defeated.
I don’t really need a reminder, particularly this year. My youngest sister is a breast cancer survivor, first diagnosed and treated in 1997. Her surgery that year was successful, though her recovery was slow and painful. When she reached the five year mark we all breathed a sigh of relief and said prayers of thanks, after having said so many other prayers over those years. There have been a couple of scares along the way, and each time she has bounced back. Ever heard of breast cancer cells in thyroid tissue? She has now, because she was one of the few that have been diagnosed with it. Luckily they have been able to treat it with chemotherapy, and her numbers had been steadily improving.
As faithful as she has been about her examinations and her diet, one thing did escape everyone’s awareness. Perhaps it happened because she had changed oncologists along the way; whatever the reason, it happened. She has had PET scans all along the way and had assumed that any cancer cells would have been picked up either by the scans or the bloodwork she also has on a regular basis. So she hasn’t had a mammogram for a number of years. That came up in a recent conversation with her new oncologist. She was informed that she still needed to have regular mammograms, and should have one immediately.
The angels must have been watching over her, because that mammogram did show a small lump in her unaffected breast. So last Friday, once again she was in the hospital for surgery. She was in and out very quickly, and is home recovering now. The sentinel node was negative, and they believe that they got it all and early. As always she is very optimistic, and handling everything with grace.
I am so grateful that the outlook is so good for her; it wasn’t all that many years ago that the outcome might have been very different. I want and need to keep her around for a long time to come; and there are so many that feel the same way about her, most especially her family.
I hope the time will come in my lifetime that there will be a cure for this and many other cancers. In the meantime, I will remind friends to get regular mammograms and do self-examinations. When October comes around next year, and the year after, and the year after, I will wear pink ribbons, buy pink bags, donate to breast cancer research, and say prayers of thanks for my sister and all the other courageous women I know who are breast cancer survivors. I will also remember those friends I have lost…there is no cure yet.