Somerset West, South Africa

Cancer scar/scare, NO not my mom!

My friend kept crying for a week. At work she tried, but could not hide the stress and anxiety. Could this really have happened to her mom, aged 70, in perfect health, non-smoker/drinker, and working like someone in their thirties? Today her mom has a big scar where her breast should have been. While all of this was happening I thought to myself, thank goodness, it’s not my mom, how would I ever cope?

Let`s call my friend Lizzy and her mom Ann. Ann got divorced within this year. Not by her choosing. She took it like a champ and tried to make the situation as easy as possible on Lizzy. Never crying, cursing, and throwing stones at the man that promised to love her till death do them part? And now that death is knocking on the front door, the ones left to pick up the pieces are Lizzy and her siblings. The doctor said that genetics and the stress of divorce could have been the main factors in Ann’s cancer developing. While Ann has never been for yearly mammograms after 40, she also never showed any signs of cancer. She just woke up one day, and BOOM, there was the lump growing rapidly. For precaution, Ann’s breast was removed and now she goes for 4 sessions of chemo every 3 weeks.

October is Cancer Awareness Month, dedicated to millions of woman who struggled and loss, struggled and won, and those still struggling. I asked Lizzy to take me through the turmoil. Maybe her story can help other children cope while suffering along the woman in their lives affected by Breast cancer.

After the “I have breast cancer” call Lizzy went through 4 stages:
Phase 1 Denial: Lizzy’s initial thought was that her mom was overreacting. At a certain point in our lives, we think it will never happen to us or someone we know. But in 2018 21.7% cancerous cases reported was of breast cancer. Phase 2 Shock:_ This was the main thing Lizzy cried about, that death was now real, and at first she did not believe her mom’s fear.

Phase 3 Survival: The only thing Lizzy talked about the whole month was how to help Ann. Questions like how to handle the after-effects of the chemo, what comes next, when will Ann be healed needed to be answered. Ann lives lucky very close to Lizzy, so she can attend the chemo sessions and support her afterward. Lizzy struggled how to explain to her kids (all 3 toddlers) what was happening with grandma. But she found the best way for her. She told them grandma was very sick, the doctor had to operate on her, and the medicine she gets makes her hair fall out.
Phase 4 Thinking of the future: There is no future, only the now!

Breast cancer awareness month
October month is an effort to raise awareness and reduce the stigma of breast cancer through education on symptoms and treatment. Awareness is important for funding towards research into the cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and cure. The campaigns also offer information and support to those affected by breast cancer. Every woman should do research on the types of breast cancer, and how to detect:
• Do a physical exam yourself.
• Go for a yearly mammogram after 40, and if you have a history of breast cancer in your family, go earlier.
• An alternative to a mammogram, you can go for an MRI Scan or Breast Ultrasound.
• If cancer was found your doctor will do a biopsy to make sure if it is cancerous cells.
• If cancerous cells were found the lump may be removed, and a grading will be done on how far cancer has spread. From here your doctor will decide on the course of treatment.
• Ask your doctor or hospital where to find support groups if you have no one around.

The most import thing Ann has learned through this experience with her mom is to make memories every day, know what the stats are, be aware of your body and never be afraid to wear the scar. You are a survivor, and if someone you know did not survive, learn from them so that their memory can live on.

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