Last May when I was visiting Mom in Iowa you called to let us know you were diagnosed with breast cancer. I was shocked, and hurt, and I felt helpless living 3,000 miles away. If you were close I could drive you to appointments; I could help clean the house; I could watch your sons for you. I wanted to “be there for you” but that wasn’t physically possible, so I sent you a few packages full of various items: a scarf, a book, peppermint tea, ginger chews, and pink items that said “survivor” and “fight.” Oh yeah, and I sent a pizza, too. I am so glad your twin was nearby, because I knew you would receive nothing but the best support from her. This was one of the first times in my adult life I really ached being apart from family.
I shared your story in the Punk Mama Facebook group that I am a part of, and it was reassuring to hear their kind words and stories of their loved ones’ battles with cancer. I occasionally provided them with updates on how you were doing and where you were at in your treatment – like when your double mastectomy was a success; the day you and Dad shaved your heads together; the day you finished chemotherapy; and finally two days ago when you finished radiation therapy and completed your treatment! These women were rooting for you through it all.
The very week you received your diagnosis, I began posting monthly reminders to the group to encourage them to do self breast exams. It was such a simple thing to do that had the potential for a big impact. And as a group, they listened – they “liked” the post, they left comments, a couple founds lumps in the process which they pursued (all fine!), and others shared the post on their own Facebook feeds…and then their friends shared the post…and so on.
I can’t imagine having cancer can ever be chalked up to something positive, but the awareness that your experience has created is something really special, and maybe one day, it will mean a woman won’t need to go through those hellish months of treatment you had to endure this past year – maybe your story will be the reason they live. So thank you for sharing your story and being open, and thank you for the positivity you somehow managed to keep up throughout. Thank you.
Love, your sister