Every October the local newspapers that I oversee as editor attempt to bring our readers stories about their mothers (and fathers), wives, sisters and friends and how breast cancer has touched their lives. This year’s theme for our Breast Cancer Awareness Month special edition was “In Her Own Words,” which referenced profiles of candid courage from our neighbors on their unique journeys, sharing wisdom from a path no one willingly chooses to take.
As I’ve shared with our readers in the past, my own mother did not choose that path, but when she was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 41, she set out on a journey with no clear destination. As I’ve also shared, my mother went through surgery, chemotherapy and radiation with an all-too-brief but sweet remission, prior to the cancer metastasizing in her liver. From there, she still fought for the latest, cutting-edge treatments available, but she lost her battle at the age of 47. That was 1998, and though so much has changed in the way breast cancer is treated, one thing has not — early detection saves lives.
One thing not many know about my mother’s journey is that when she first found a lump in her breast while taking a bath, she knew it felt different — it felt out of place. She went to a medical professional who, for whatever reason, left her with the impression this wasn’t anything that required testing at that point. She is gone now so I can’t ask her why she believed that person at the time, but from a strictly human perspective, who wouldn’t want to believe it was probably nothing? This was more than 20 years ago and perspectives change daily on the most trivial of matters, let alone on something as intricate as cancer.
So, she waited and the lump waited with her. It didn’t leave and, in fact, became more apparent and it hurt. There was no way this was “nothing” and she knew it. She went back to get it checked. At this point, cancer was confirmed and at stage three. She had often wondered “what if” and how, to what degree, the “it’s probably nothing” diagnosis likely shortened her life. She was angry about the care she sought and the care she finally received, much later than she asked for it.
I don’t think she would mind me sharing that story 21 years later, or mind me telling you to be your own best advocate when it comes to your health. No one knows your body like you know it. This is her opportunity to share Janie (Kincaid) Nibert’s wisdom about her cancer journey just as the women who were profiled within our special edition. Though their journeys are different, one uniting theme remains — early detection often leads to a good prognosis and more life to live.
As I’ve also shared before, many years after my mother’s death one of her best friends told me that at a difficult time during her treatment, when mom was so sick, that she asked her how she got through it?
“I just look past it,” she said to her friend, who recently used that advice to recover from a kidney transplant.
May those who are having that bad, never-ending day, find the hope to look past it and eventually get through it, whatever that “it” may be.