Three years ago today, I heard words no 34 year old mom of two should ever have to hear: you have cancer.
I stared in disbelief, reeling, rejecting the diagnosis even as I heard the words echo in the little room. Cancer is for older people, like my mother-in-law, still reeling from a cancer diagnosis herself just a week earlier. in fact, my husband had just returned from helping her through her own biopsy and lumpectomy, halfway across the country. He held my hand, strong and confident, but I could feel his heart sink next to mine.
The kids — our kids — home with Grammy — what would happen to their childhood? Would they be sentenced to a babyhood indoors with a sick mama? Worse — would they grow up without their mama?
So much went through my head in that first moment. So much worry. So much fear. So much … shock. I had only gone to my ob/gyn in the first place because my baby was still refusing to nurse on the right side. We had been to his pediatrician time after time, to the lactation consultant weekly, but still, no dice. My five-month-old baby steadfastly refused to nurse on the right breast.
It turns out that a newborn rejecting one breast is a sign. It’s called Goldschmidt’s sign. Here are some other signs that something may be wrong with a breast, and that you should get them checked “to rule out cancer.”
I’m now in treatment for a second stage III cancer, or a metastasis of the original inflammatory breast cancer. It doesn’t matter which one, really, both are hard enough. The cancer sapped my body of energy over the months it lived in my body, growing and spreading to thirteen lymph nodes under my left armpit. We had it cut out right away and started radiation. Treatment is working, but it’s not a cure. Even the chemotherapy that I start again next month is not a cure.
We need a cure. Cancer sucks. We know that. You know that. But it still makes me angry, as I sit here in my living room watching my children play, helpless to join them on the floor with their matchbox cars or play catch with them in the yard. I want my future back. And it makes me angry.
If cancer makes you angry too, there are things you can do to fight back. You can raise awareness, by posting a link to reminder for your readers to “check themselves” on your blog today. You can find out more about research studies that are happening online or in your area, and you can join the Love/Avon Army of Women. You can take action by joining the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and making phone calls to your congressional representatives when a cancer issue comes up for a vote. You can take action on this, in your community and in your world.
We need to. We need to FIGHT this beast called cancer, before twenty more moms are diagnosed and their lives changed forever. This isn’t an easy battle, but it’s one I fight every day.
Susan Niebur is an astrophysicist, a mom, and a cancer survivor, blogging her story every day at Toddler Planet and Mothers With Cancer. This post originally appeared at Mamapedia on 6/24/10; if you haven’t read it there, go check out the comments. You’ll be amazed.