Saturday, October 01, 2005

Every 27 seconds, somewhere in the world, someone's mother or sister is diagnosed with breast cancer. Every 77 seconds, a life is lost to the disease.

In December of 2003 and we were getting ready for Christmas; making plans, baking, shopping, the usual preparations. My Mom had a weird skin rash on her left breast but didn't think much of it. It served to remind her that it had been two years since her last 'annual' mammogram and she should make an appointment. Though she almost put it off until after the holidays, something was urging her to get it over with and out of the way.

The mammogram results showed no sign of mass but the technician thought her skin rash was a little odd and recommended that she have it looked at. Mom's general physician found the rash irregular and a little concerning and referred her to a Specialist. The C-word was tossed out there like a random speck of dust but it fell like a lead balloon on our Christmas spirit. 'Might be Cancer' isn't really what you want to hear at any time of your life, nevermind the week before the holidays. And a Merry Fucking Christmas to you too.

An Oncologist wasn't available until after the new year...and in Canada that's lightning fast. The speed at which one is able to see a Specialist is generally a reliable barometer for how serious your condition very well could be, giving you a good sense of fear and dread without even seeing the doctor. If you're scheduled any time within six months of making the appointment your worry is highly justified.

Worldwide, breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for women aged 15 to 64.

After a few more tests and a visit to the Oncologist, my mother was diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer. The rare kind. The bad kind. The kind that has a 30-40% survival rate, with the average life span after diagnosis of 18 months.

Over the last almost-two years she has undergone two rounds of chemotherapy, six weeks of radiation burns, she lost her hair, had a mastectomy and 12 lymph nodes removed. She almost died when one of the chemo drugs depleted her immune system and has had every side-effect on the books for every drug she's taken, plus added a few new ones to the list as well.

My Mom is a trooper, a champion. The things she has been through in the last two years would certainly crush many people but she's never let it get her down...not that she'd let us see anyway. She's strong, determined, and unyielding. Always our rock. She has kicked the ass of the 18-month prognosis, thumbing her nose at the cancer.

Yesterday Mom received some not-so-good news. She noticed a swollen lymph node in her neck a couple of weeks ago...probably just a cold coming on but decided to have it checked out anyway, to be on the safe side. They performed a biopsy and cancer cells have been detected.

We're not sure what this means aside from many more tests and trips to the city to see the Oncologist. Maybe it's nothing but maybe it's something. Something bad. My Mom will take it as it comes and roll with the punches. I wish I could be as calm about it as she is; I think patience and acceptance is my lesson to learn from this. Let's just hope my lesson isn't dealing with loss.

This is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Please get yer boobs checked out. Take your Mom, take your sister, take your friends. I know that it's an inconvenience and sometimes it's hard to make time for yourself but early detection is the key to survival. You're worth it.

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