October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and unfortunately I am an expert! Not a medical expert or even a survivor but a family member of women who have fought this disease and won and some who have not. My mom was the first encounter with this disease at a very young age (she was 35) and she bravely fought it off despite some medical misdiagnosis and treatment problems for seven years.
I remember driving her home from the hospital after radiation treatments as an 18 year old with four younger siblings (we were 20,18, 15, 11 and 9 when she died). The ride for her was painful due to the side effects of the almost whole body radiation treatment with nausea and other awful side effects. My father was like a brave soldier surrounded and outnumbered who kept on fighting despite the odds. He had a full time job, cared for a sick spouse and a young family and continued to finish building the house that had been their dream. After seven years she passed away with much love and pain to be forgotten and God’s promise for a pain free home in heaven. Her sister and my aunt followed her path shortly afterwards and then years later another sister with so many advances in medicine was a winner and survivor!
Many years passed, I finished college and pilot training and married a beautiful woman. We raised our own family, experienced many Air Force and family moments and then retired to a new job and lifestyle in Michigan. Then it struck again! My bride was diagnosed with breast cancer and I went into shock. Not again! Please, not again. Then we met with doctors to begin a process of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. A quick mover this one had been as Deb had been up to date on all the diagnostic tools offered by modern medicine. We had wonderful doctors (we did change one oncologist after recognizing a discomfort with his style) and the nurses, what can I say! They were kind and gentle when we needed them to be and responded in detail to our questions (a pilot mind set tends to be inquisitive about maintenance issues).
I went to all the appointments and Deb was my heroine! She never really complained and had such a positive attitude. We held each other close and tried to maintain our lifestyle despite all the appointments. Our daughter in laws took her wig shopping and our daughter who lives in another state visited and helped when she could. Our sons and daughter did trips to chemo and were always available when we needed something. We even hosted the big family gathering of 50+ folks at Christmas (with lots of hand cleaners available) during chemo. She never missed one appointment and now four years later is a survivor extraordinaire!
My journey next to breast cancer has been a tough one but I have truly seen and experienced the improvements in treatment in the last 40 years! We have walked, learned more and realize that we have been blessed with new innovations and medicines. Below are some interesting articles to raise your awareness during October!
The first article is on early detection and why it is so important!
The next two articles are about Tricare Preventive Services.