At the risk of being too personal, I’m going to admit to having a mammogram today. It’s a pretty routine procedure for us women, I know. I think it’s also safe to say that it’s uncomfortable for all and nerve wracking for some. I went into this procedure just a little nervous for a couple of reasons. My doctor was upset to find out that it had been a couple of years since I’d gone and mentioned feeling something strange during my last routine visit. However, the main reason he was upset is that there’s first generation breast cancer in my family. My sister was diagnosed and had a double mastectomy before she was forty.
I’m thankful today for the fact that my visit turned out a normal reading, but mostly that my sister is still cancer free. She was diagnosed in January 2007. Two months after our dad was diagnosed with stomach cancer. Wow that was a tough year. And my sister faced her own cancer with such amazing courage, it’s almost easy to forget she had it. My large family is scattered around the country, and she lived in Kentucky at the time. My oldest sister and I traveled to Kentucky to be with her and help her for a few days after her surgery. When we showed up at the hospital, we had to laugh because she was wearing an Alice in Wonderland Cheshire Cat top with the caption “Poof…gone.” on it. (Our family’s sarcasm knows no bounds.) And after the surgery, when we helped her do the basic functions: get in and out of bed, shower, dress without screwing up the drain tubes and bandages, she didn’t whine or even complain much beyond making comments about the awkwardness or uncomfortableness or general pain of it. Granted, we didn’t stay with her for the duration of her healing, but I can say with certainty that she dealt with her cancer like she deals with all things in her life. Straight on. Head held high. Doing what she needs to do without falling to pieces, like she would have every right to do. Like many of us would do.
I admire my sister’s bravery; words fail when I think of how proud I am of her. As anyone who has been touched by cancer knows, it’s not something that goes away completely. It’s always there, in the back of the mind if no where else. Since her initial diagnosis eight years ago, she has had different follow-up surgeries and routine checks and rechecks. Thankfully, all is still well. She doesn’t talk about it much. She made it through and has continued on beyond it. On a daily basis, it’s easy to forget about until something as mundane as a routine mammogram reminds me. My sister is a cancer survivor and is still a beautiful role model in my life. What a blessing it is to say that.