Breast Cancer Hits Close to Home

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My mother-in-law found out last week that she has breast cancer and she was operated on yesterday. She’s the closest person to me who has had it. I guess I’ve been fortunate–or the women I know have been. It’s especially tough on my husband because his family is German and lives in northwestern Germany. We haven’t even seen them for four years and it’s been almost eight since my husband left there. It’s time, especially now, for us to plan a visit. My husband’s father and sister are there for moral support, but we wish we could be, too.

All indications are that it has been caught early. Fortunately my mother-in-law is good about regular check-ups and this was found when she last saw her doctor. Which reminds me, I’m way overdue for a mammogram. I shouldn’t take my body for granted that way. Things do happen, and they can happen to people you know, even yourself. There was one case of breast cancer in my family: my mother’s mother. But that’s it. We run more to heart disease. If I remember right, heart disease is the leading cause of death among women but breast cancer is second. Taking time out for check-ups, preventative care and screenings is a must if you don’t want to become a statistic.

Some women don’t want to go to the doctor unless they think something is wrong. That may be too late. Get a check-up and talk to your doctor about what tests you should have and when. And then get them! Don’t hold back because you’re afraid that people will think you’re a hypochondriac. Taking care of yourself is smart, not sick. And if you are having symptoms, don’t suffer in silence.  And don’t be afraid that you’re tempting fate by having tests and check-ups; that’s like saying that your car might fall apart just because you had it checked out by a mechanic. The check-up itself won’t cause anything, and if there is something wrong, it can’t be fixed unless the doctor knows about it.

I have a friend who had breast cancer years ago when she was a young mother. She’s now my age (or thereabouts–I won’t put her on the spot) and she’s fine. When I walked in the Race for the Cure in May, survivors were everywhere and many people had survivors’ names written on their backs. But they also had names of those who didn’t make it. And every one of those is a story that would break your heart.

Don’t let yours become one of them. Get a mammogram! Do a self-exam! Visit your doctor! Remember, there’s always someone whose world would fall apart if you weren’t in it anymore.

Enough said (I hope!) .Now I just have to take my own advice.

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Ellen Keim

Ellen is a freelance writer, essayist and copy editor, living with three cats and a husband in Columbus, OH.

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