Where the Pink Ribbons End: A Tale of Surviving Breast Cancer

My mother is a breast cancer survivor. Each October, I’m reminded of the journey that began four years ago and still continues today. Many people think after the remission of breast cancer that everything is ok. My mother’s experience as a survivor of breast cancer was in many ways just as difficult as her experience fighting it.

Seeing pink ribbons all over social media, T.V. and in grocery displays a want to cure cancer, but it's also a sobering reminder that 1 in 7 women suffer through breast cancer in their lifetime. In the U.S., I feel we are well educated about how to identify cancer, but we do not talk enough about the scars left over for survivors.

Watching my mother live every day has been a lesson in strength and grace. She had to learn to live as a whole new person. After a mastectomy, she had to learn how to feel beautiful in her body again. After finding that estrogen was feeding her cancer, she to learn to live in the uncomfortable state of menopause due to an improper hormone balance. Most of all, she had to learn how to face the fact she had survived an attack from within her own body.

Many of the ads for the Susan G. Komen walk show women smiling wearing survivor t-shirts, surrounded by friends all walking into the sunset. These images of happiness are the product of many days of tears and confusion. Due to the lack of estrogen in her body, my mother suffered from depression. She would constantly wonder, “How did the mammograms not show this?” and “I did everything right and this still happened.” As her daughter, I would feel helpless because as she and I both knew there were no satisfying answers to these questions.

I was often confused as to why she was not more focused on living in the present and rather dwelling in the past. Simply put, facing breast cancer as a family is like surviving a train wreck. I found myself constantly picking up the pieces as new challenges arose after the biggest hurdle seemed conquered.

The restoration of my family’s collective sense of security and acceptance of my mother’s new norm was a hard experience, yet one that can be done. Looking back at those early days, I’m thankful we had our tribulations because it makes every good day even sweeter. Since then my mom and I have learned to accept what happened and she has found peace by passing the goodness she received onto others.

Since becoming a mentor at Imerman’s Angels, my mom is helping women who have just started her journey with breast cancer. By utilizing this resource, my mom not only supports helps other women, but she is offered a way to heal her own scars. With this support, she is now able to live her best life every day.

For resources for survivors and families touched by breast cancer, please visit:

Imerman Angels

CancerCare

National Cancer Institute 

 

(Photo Credits: cover1, 2, 3 belongs to Anastasia Maragos)