As we come upon the first of October, we are welcomed by what has become the pink month.
It is a 31-day marathon to promote the importance of the many aspects of breast cancer — understanding and being informed, prevention, monthly exams and annual mammograms, diagnosis and treatment, giving and getting support.
Breast cancer does not discriminate between gender, lifestyle, social-economic class, race or any others. Whether you have it or you know someone who does, then you know you have to be a fighter. The more you know about breast cancer, the more ammunition one possesses to slay the beast.
My sister-in-law Jennifer will be on tamoxifen for the rest of her life, but she is thankful. We, her family, are thankful.
I will never forget the day she called for a regular catch-up chat. Our weekly phone call started with the usual happenings in her world, including my brother and niece, but it did not quite go as usual. Then she dropped the bomb about being officially diagnosed with breast cancer. Jennifer was so great about it. She went into this dissertation about how early she caught it (via her monthly self exam) and how that will likely tremendously help give her a very positive outcome. She explained the process, telling me treatment will be for the next goodness knows how long — it seemed the time frame was never-ending. She explained how the doctor was going to insert a port into her, so she would not be constantly poked with needles each week for her chemo treatments.
Jen had answers to all my questions. She always finds a way to comfort others, which always works.
As far as she was concerned, she gave off the attitude of “Yeah, I’ve got this. I need to take care of it, but it is only a temporary inconvenience because I have a lot I want to do.” So, strong, but not trying to be, just very matter of fact. What she said and did, it happened.
Our subsequent weekly updates included how she was feeling, the count down to her last chemo visit and moments I could tell were more difficult than others. Shortly after her treatments began, Jennifer started losing her hair. She told me on the phone about the morning it happened. She was getting ready to take my niece somewhere, and as she brushed her hair, a handful came out. She shared it was an odd experience because it didn’t all fall out at once, it was patchy. At that point, Jen decided it was time for a new, super-short do! She was the best lookin’ bald lady, EVER!
She was a champion through it all, and, knock wood, today her remission continues.
If Jennifer had not been informed, done her regular monthly exams and stayed away from denial, there is no telling how her situation would have turned out. Let this October be your inspiration to get informed, stay informed or to help others do so. There are opportunities in the Roanoke Valley that can help you do just that:
• Halifax Regional, Rural Health Group and Roanoke Valley Breast Cancer Coalition will hold a free Breast Exam Clinic from 9 a.m. to noon Oct. 6 at 1385 Medical Center Drive in Roanoke Rapids. This clinic will provide awareness, information and resources. There will be door prizes, refreshments and the opportunity for a mammogram. For more information, call Audrey Hardy at 252-535-8648.
• The Roanoke Valley Breast Cancer Coalition will have a free conference, “Voices From The Valley Conference: Patient-Provider Communication Along the Breast Cancer Continuum in Northeastern North Carolina,” from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Nov. 3 at The Centre on the campus of Halifax Community College in Weldon. For more details, contact Angela Carter at 252-535-8623 or firstname.lastname@example.org.