Jill has generously agreed to share her mom's breast cancer story with us. Be sure to leave her plenty of feedback in the comments and stop by her blog to say hello!
It was my 30th birthday – May 29, 2003. I was in Iowa – the place of my birth and home of my heart – to celebrate with my family. My mom and sister had both taken the day off and we were spending it together…eating…shopping…playing…enjoying. The only “must do” on that day’s agenda was a mid-afternoon appointment of my mom’s. She was scheduled that day to have a core biopsy of a spot found on her right breast.
For many just this appointment would have been anxiety-ridden, but not for my mom. She could be the poster child for dense breast tissue. In the 15 years leading up to this day she had had two benign tumors removed, a needle biopsy and ultrasounds had become routine as her mammograms were generally questionable.
We went to the appointment. She cheerfully chatted as the biopsy was done, even trying to pry information out that they were unable to give. She dressed, joined my sister and I and my birthday festivities continued.
Four days later I had returned to my home in Missouri and was sitting in my living room when the phone rang. On the other end was my mother. “It is cancer,” she said and the certainty with which I lived disappeared.
Thankfully, seven years later, hers is a story of hope. Two weeks after her diagnosis she had a mastectomy. That next month she began four months of chemotherapy. After five years she was given a clean bill of health. She continues to teach and travel, to enjoy her life, to nurture her family, to watch her children raise children. She is a survivor.
In 1597 (406 years before my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer), Sir Francis Bacon wrote, “Knowledge is power.” When it comes to breast cancer, I am continuing to discover the truth of this. I’m also coming to realize that it’s not quite as simple as Bacon stated…yes, knowledge is power, but it’s just the first step. We need to allow ourselves to be empowered by what we know.
See, even though I know what I am to do, seven years later I am still working on living in to it. I am realizing more and more that it is important for me to educate myself. I need to know what habits increase my chances of having breast cancer and which can help me avoid it – and then I need to practice the correct ones! I need to know what it means that my mother had infiltrating ductal carcinoma…both what that means for her and what it means for my sister and I.
There are some practices that have been easy for me. Breastfeeding is said to reduce the chances of breast cancer – how pleased I was to discover that one of the most important parts of my journey of motherhood not only nourished my children but had benefits for me as well.
There are others things I struggle to do. Each year when my OB asks, “Have you been doing your monthly self-exams?” I give an honest although sheepish, “No, I haven’t.” I struggle – perhaps due to fear – with this discipline.
Then there are other things, too. Eating right (low fat diets are an important part of prevention of breast cancer) and exercising cannot be overstated. And I have been working on being more committed to these marks of healthy living. Even just the simple, yet always fleeting, commitment to lowering stress and living a happy life is powerful. Again, not things I’ve perfected, but I am trying.
Breast cancer has taught me that education is about more than knowing the right answers. It’s about learning to live what we know, to choose to allow knowledge to truly be power.
Jill is a church pastor and mother of two boys who believes that parents have the opportunity to give their children the clearest glimpse of God that can be given through another person. She writes about this and more at Clearest Glimpse of God.