I remember the moment vividly.
Both of my parents picked me up from school - I was in eighth grade - which was unusual as my mom was usually at work until 5 p.m.
When I got into the car, my parents informed me that my mom had just gotten out of a doctor appointment. This wasn’t anything strange to me - everyone has doctor appointments. However, I could tell something was off. The car ride home was too quiet.
Once we got home, I headed into the house and was about to head upstairs to change out of my school uniform - I was wearing a white, long-sleeved polo shirt and navy pants that day. But, instead of going straight upstairs, my parents stopped me and asked to talk to me in the living room. Right then, I knew something was seriously wrong.
I don’t remember much about the next half hour or so that unfolded after that. All I remember is the news that my mom had breast cancer.
Luckily, my mom had caught the cancer early. She made a point of checking her breasts at home and as soon as she found a lump she went straight to the doctor.
Telling my friends was awkward. Nobody quite knows how to react to that news, especially junior high students. Fortunately though, my friends and their parents were all helpful, giving me rides and letting me come over to their houses when my mom needed extra rest.
My mom started chemotherapy about a month later. There are really no words to describe what I saw during her treatments. I had grown up seeing my mom as the most beautiful and strong woman in the world. And all of a sudden, she was weak and wearing a wig.
I wouldn’t say my mother was afraid to show me and my siblings her vulnerable side while we were growing up, but this was a whole new vulnerable we had ever seen.
I had to help my mom get out of bed, I had to cook meals for the family, I had to start doing the families laundry. There were even days I didn’t see my mom around the house unless I went to her bedroom and laid in bed with her.
But while she looked weak on the outside, she was strong on the inside. My mom eventually made it through her chemo, had a successful lumpectomy and went through radiation treatments.
During this time, I took on my first ever job, learned to drive and started high school. A very pivotal, difficult time in any woman’s life, especially so with a sick mother.
I am so glad and proud to say my mother is a breast cancer survivor.
While my mother is still alive and healthy, I do remember her struggle every October during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Now that I am 23 years old, I know that my time to receive clinical breast exams has come. It’s surreal to think that someday I might be diagnosed and have to go through breast cancer like my mother did. It is scary to know that my future children might someday have to take care of me while I go through chemotherapy treatments, as well.
But, I am optimistic. Every year, technology advances and breakthroughs in treatments are made. Maybe someday no one will have to see their mother what my mother went through.
But until that time, I ask every woman reading this article. Please remember to check your breasts at home on a regular basis. If you don’t know how to do at-home exams, ask your doctor. And please, please if you feel a lump, do not - I repeat, DO NOT - put off going to the doctor out of fear. The sooner a tumor is caught, the more likely changes you are to make it through treatments.