I feel confident assuming that everyone reading this has had at least one moment in their life that’s ingrained in their memory. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate, like a wedding or the birth of a child, but rather one small, unassuming glimpse of time, to which the world completely stops. For me, this was a basic train ride in December of 2016.
Like I’d done so many times before, I was aboard the Metra train headed home from work in Chicago. Unlike those around me reading books or finishing work on their laptops, I filled my 20-minute train ride by mindlessly scrolling through Facebook. To me, the best way to unwind was to look through pictures and personal updates from my friends. Little did I know that one single swipe of my thumb would stop my world on a dime.
Hidden between baby announcements and funny memes was a post from my Aunt.
“Prayers for my sister Linda, as she’s been diagnosed with breast cancer today.”
Breast Cancer? My mom? Wait, what?? I was completely frozen. I wasn’t unfamiliar with the horror stories of breast cancer, as I’d known friends who lost loved ones to this disease and so my heart shattered. And despite my devastation, I was also livid that I was finding out this news from a Facebook post.
Living eight hours away from my mom, I instantly called her, praying that by some glimmer of hope my aunt was simply ill-informed. When she answered, she confirmed the terrible nightmare, and I completely broke down. Despite my body flooding with every emotion under the sun at that moment, it paled in comparison to how my mom was feeling. Not only had she just received life-altering news, but she also had to figure out a way to deliver that news to two kids, one of whom was not going to take it well (if you guessed I was the child who wasn’t going to take it well – you guessed correctly).
The next year was filled with appointments. Surgery, chemo, radiation, and hospitalizations consumed the calendar. The disease was brutal, and I wasn’t even the one fighting it. But that’s the thing about breast cancer, or really any disease in general. Disease rarely just impacts the person battling it but rather affects the family, friends, and loved ones too.
Unfortunately, one in eight women will receive this horrific diagnosis over the course of her lifetime. Early detection is crucial, so I implore you to practice self-exams, get mammograms, and encourage your moms, sisters, aunts, spouses, cousins, friends, and loved ones to do the same.
For those wondering how my mom’s story ends: we were incredibly blessed to eventually hear her ring the remission bell. I know that isn’t the case for many families, so as we continue through October and Breast Cancer Awareness month, please find a way to spread awareness, donate or volunteer to a great cause, call a loved one, schedule an appointment and help me, my mom and so many other families put an end to this disease.