Breast Cancer Awareness?

I’m not sure if you know it but each October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, “an annual campaign to increase awareness of the disease.”

It just got my full attention in a fresh new way.

On October 14, a friend (who will remain anonymous) told me she had breast cancer. I received the same news on October 22 from my precious daughter-in-law. I am not answering my phone this week.

Their situations are similar in many ways. They were both given the general diagnosis but are in the process of various tests and procedures to determine the type, stage, and plan so they are in that weird place of knowing while not knowing. Both spent the days after their diagnosis checking with insurance, setting doctor’s visits, and making phone calls to let family and friends know. Both are very resilient – I heard a combative spirit in their voices against this enemy. Both are married to supportive husbands, including my wonderful son. Both have had health challenges in the past but this is their first engagement with cancer.

In other ways, they are different. One is closer to my age and, of course, the other is old enough to be my daughter (because, in case you missed it above, she is). While both have children, the brood for one is older while younger for the other (i.e. my two beautiful granddaughters). They live in different states and likely have a different health insurance provider, so the doctors and maybe even the procedures used will be similar but not the same (welcome to “precision medicine”). Their path to this point in time, their current present reality, and the path forward will likewise be similar but not the same. One is a good friend that feels like family. The other is literally family.

This is not my first encounter with cancer. My father-in-law died from cancer in 1994. My aunt (and “second mother”) died suddenly from cancer in 2014. Two long-time friends won their intense battles with breast cancer within the past year. A cousin is currently battling his own cancer. All of this means I have seen both death and life when it comes to cancer. I have seen the struggle for the person with cancer, their spouse, their surrounding family and caregivers, and all their cheerleaders. In some cases, my viewpoint has been from afar. In other cases, I lived through it directly.

I do not know what the future holds for either of these wonderfully strong women. Nobody at this point knows the steps ahead, much less full visibility into the upcoming path or destination. In one situation, I will be supporting from afar through texts and phone calls. In the other situation, I will literally be in waiting rooms and living rooms, providing direct support in the most personal way possible.

What I do know, however, is that both have partnered with expert clinicians. Both are supported by hundreds of people praying for them along with survivors offering “pay it forward” advice. For sure, they will both be enveloped by love and fueled by hope. Neither are alone in their battle.

Breast Cancer Awareness? If somehow I’ve missed it before, I definitely have it now.

Mark PewThe RxProfessorEducator and Agitator