When I was younger I did not understand the severity of cancer. I knew that it was a bad thing and it made people sick. When my aunt was diagnosed and she had her surgery, I was in third grade. My aunt had practically moved into my house so that we could take care of her as my mother was a nurse and we knew my aunt would have drains and need the extra assistance. From a child’s perspective, it seemed like I was just helping out a little bit. Now, I am able to see that me doing little things like helping to shave her legs or changing the color of her nail polish on her toes was something that kept her laughing. I remember always putting a design of balloons on her big toes because balloons always make people happy and for some reason, I felt that there was always a reason to celebrate.
When my aunt found out she had breast cancer she was 39 years old. It was at her first, and seemingly last, mamogram. Initially, she wasn’t even going to get one done but for some reason, she decided to go with my mom when my mom was scheduled to get hers. She didn’t have any ‘lumps or bumps’ and was just going to make sure that everything was as it seemed to be. Spoiler, it wasn’t. The nurses mentioned that since it was her first time getting a mammogram done that they might call her back to have another one done. Perfect, it makes sense I mean, they want to make sure before they even think about saying the scary ‘C’ word.
My aunt was called back in to get her second mammogram before Christmas. She went and got it done as well as a biopsy. When she leftm they wished her a happy new year and she was on her way to celebrate the holidays with her family.
January 4th started as a normal Monday morning; the kids went with her to the doctors since they all had dance class after the appointment. After the nurse removed the stitches from her biopsy, she heard the words that changed her life and her entire mindset: “You have cancer.” They explain that it is IDC or Invasive Duct Carcinoma. Stunned, the nurse lets her know that she can schedule her doctor’s appointment and they will get her in as soon as the doctor has an opening.
She was told that she would be able to stop over at the hospital in the morning to pick up her films. Since my dad was working near the hospital at the time she detoured to my house and asked him to pick up the films for her. When he asked what’s up, she said, as if speaking about the weather, “I have breast cancer” and walked out of the door, driving to dance class.
It wasn’t until she arrived at dance class, about 20 minutes away, that it finally hit her like a load of bricks. She had what was a seemingly terminal illness. A disease that has killed millions. She had two girls that might lose their mom. She broke down crying.
Not long after the realization hit did my mother call. She was already lining up the best doctors that she knew and getting all of the medical connections set up. After prepping the ‘team’, everyone was ready to win the biggest game of the year. After having a big “Bye to the Boobies” margarita my aunt was ready for the battle.
My mom went to every doctor’s appointment with my aunt. Every step of the way we were there for her. The spare bedroom was converted into her room. I made her a heart-shaped pillow that was pink on one side and had breast cancer awareness ribbons on the other for when she came out of surgery.