By Jeff Martin
When I called my mother and father on a stormy Sunday afternoon back in 2009, I had one mission only: to get names of distant relatives I wished to research at a genealogy library in the Midwest where I was living.
This act of family research was something that I couldnít resist. There was something urging me to do it, and to this day I still donít understand why.
But maybe there was more behind my mission. Some subconscious awareness on my part as to why I was calling. Halfway into the conversation with my father, he told me he had some ìhard news to tell me.î
ìWhat? What is it?î
ìWell, your mother has breast cancer,î he said.
I stopped and drew in a breath. My motherís not even in her 70s, only recently retired and ó what, now this? And there I was, nearly 800 miles west of her and powerless. Not fair, though Iíve long since given up on any kind of fairness in life. But still.
Of course, she was upset about it. Even embarrassed. In truth, she was so ashamed that she had known about it for about a week and hadnít told me.
That was four years ago, and Iím happy to say that after therapy and treatment, recent tests show the cancer has been removed. They say you have to be cancer-free for five years before youíre considered cured, so my mother is still in the red zone. We donít speak much about it to this day, but itís there in the background, a lurking presence.
During the whole ordeal of treatment, I called her constantly and offered my support. There were days when she truly felt she couldnít go on, couldnít go through with the treatments, but I asked her what choice did she have?
Endure treatment or say goodbye to family and friends.
Say goodbye to family and friends.
It sounds harsh, but you have to be harsh while fighting harsh situations. Too many people skirt around the condition and the person. They cuddle up to the disease and plead for it to go away. Iím not saying you need to unleash intense anger, which can create its own problems, but you need to let the disease know that youíre strong and that youíll face it and that youíll do anything in order to survive.
For women, this attitude is essential. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, aside from skin cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. An estimated 230,480 cases of invasive breast cancer were diagnosed in 2011, according to ACS. Of those, approximately 39,000 women were expected to die from the disease. For men in that same year, 2,140 cases were diagnosed.
And my mom, because of a positive attitude and support from family and friends (one of whom lives in Missouri), wasnít one of them.
I never did start my genealogical journey. Instead, I chose to focus on the people alive right here and now, and that has since made all the difference in our relationship. We are closer than weíve ever been.
As a nation, we roll around to another October, to another month of breast cancer awareness. The campaign toward awareness already started at Pumpkinville, where from Sept. 21-22 they were selling pink pumpkins, a specialized type of pumpkin that brought awareness to the issue and funds to the cause.
In 2012, Pumpkinville donated more than $3,000 to breast cancer research.
If anyone out there, including organizations, has figures related to breast cancer fundraisers in the area, drop me a line and Iíll report on it.
You can reach Jeff Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org.