Friday, April 01, 2005

Breast Cancer Foundation: Comment For A Cure

Leave a comment at California Hammonds to raise money for the breast cancer foundation. You might save a life today. Posted by Hello

While visiting one of my favorite military blogs, Sean from Doc In the Box pointed to a fund raising activity at the California Hammonds. I received confirmation from Wood Not Wood and directions on posting a link.

Greg lost his wife to breast cancer last year on April 1. That's a cruel joke by any means. Since then, he has posted the story of his family, their struggle and his wife losing her battle with this devestating disease. Earlier this year he held a commentathon that netted about $3 grand.

This year they are hoping to double or triple that amount.

Please go to California Hammonds and leave a comment. There will also be a donation button if you are able.

After everything else, this has reminded me that there is value to life and we can help insure that advances in treatments, cures and maybe, someday, prevention.

I have a personal interest in this cause.

Early in 2001, my step mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was quite a shock to our family.

I was living with my dad and step mom at the time. I was searching for a house to buy and they were letting me stay with them so I could put together the down payment and closing costs. When she came home from the doctor and said that they had "found something" and they wanted to do a biopsy our family went into a bit of denial.

I think everyone does.

I remember reassuring her over and over again that we should wait until all the tests were done before jumping to any conclusions. I thought she needed that. I know I needed that.

I suppose I should explain that my step mom isn't just my dad's wife. She and I have been friends for a long time. She married my dad when I was 20. I was old enough to be a pain in the butt and a know it all, but also trying to be mature in understanding that my dad had someone else in his life. Even at 20 that can be difficult.

As I grew older and wiser, my relationship with her changed. Like I said, she wasn't just my dad's wife, she was sometimes my confidant when my dad and my real mom were driving me crazy, together or individually. My dad had also had some health problems and we had commiserated and given each other strength and a harbor to vent in when things got rough. We would often have long philosophical discussions about life, politics, religion and many commiserating commentaries about work.

Yet, there we were in 2001 and she was the one that was ill. The biopsy came back positive for malignant cancer and they suspected the lymph nodes. After multiple discussions, a lumpectomy was decided upon along with the removal of lymph nodes that were affected under the arms. Chemotherapy and radiation treatment were to follow. I didn't know how scared she was until she asked if I would go with her and my dad to a "patient's meeting" at the clinic where she would receive her treatments.

Did I mention I work in the healthcare field? I am in administration, but I was a pharmacy tech way back in the beginning of my career as well as a customer service representative that had many dealings with patients receiving chemotherapy treatments in a home setting so I was familiar with terminology, delivery and treatment aspects. I knew about the drugs they were going to give her and the side effects.

At the patient meetings they discussed some of the issues as well as nutritional aspects. The clinic had a "holistic" approach and didn't just do "chemotherapy and radiation". They understood that the patient's mind set and general mental health were important to the healing process.

I won't go through the entire year and a half of treatments and check ups. I will tell you the basics:

She became very sick. The drugs and the radiation often made her very nauseaus. Food didn't taste right. She had high blood pressure and early onset diabetes and was tempted (more than tempted by I yelled at her) to over salt her food or put too much sugar in it, just to be able to taste it. I worked a lot, even back then, but, when I could, I would sometimes buy special foods and cook them up with wine sauces and seasoning (minus the salt) to tempt her. Of course, dad ate it too.

She was tired. A lot. At first, the concept didn't sink home. I think both my dad and I, while thinking we knew and were prepared, didn't really understand the extent of the exhaustian. Not just from the disease or the treatment, but from the constant worry. Her family had several people that died of cancer. Historically, it wasn't as if the odds were in her favor genetically.

Fortunately, when the tests came back, the type of cancer cell that was involved had a high success rate of remission.

It's called "remission" because, even if you get tested over and over and no sign appears for a long time, if ever, there is always a chance that it will come back. Lack of cancer after treatment isn't really a "cure" since recurrence is a high probability. So, it is called "remission".

She was cranky. Yes, I can say that. She knows it. Most of the time we did okay rubbing along, understanding the issues, but, unless you are the sufferer, you really can't relate.

She was emotional. The drugs and the strain played havoc with her hormones. Once in awhile I'd come home from work and she'd be watching TV and crying over something silly or some small contretemps would make her upset.

She lost her hair. She had been very proud of her hair. It was a very pretty brown color with hardly any gray in it. When it started falling out she went to wearing hats and bandanas. After awhile, she said "to heck with it" and went around bald. We laughed about it sometimes. I can tell you at that moment your perception of "beauty" as an inner quality gets defined.

She kept working. As much as she could. Her job was pretty understanding when she would get her treatments she was tired and would need a day off or two. Otherwise, she kept working. Mainly because they needed the income, but I think there was a huge part of it that was about being "normal" and keeping "busy". Those were the times when she liked to hear my "work survivor" stories the most.

In the end, she was a survivor. A year later she was pronounced "in remission". The university that she worked for sponsored a marathon to raise money for the Breast Cancer Foundation. The first lap was made by the survivors who came in droves. Each survivor could have a family member walking with them on the lap. My step mom has her own children from a previous marriage, but she asked me to walk with her. We made the first mile lap. I met many lovely survivors, some incredibly great and strong ladies at this marathon. They were all interested in meeting everyone and talking to people about their stories and the need to help other women, to insure that the survival rate from breast cancer became 100%.

I should mention that this is not just a "woman's" disease. There were several men there who had survived "male breast cancer". I always wonder how many people know that?

What was very cool was that my step mom introduced me around as her daughter and many people already knew who I was because she had bragged about me. You can't get much cooler than being bragged about by a survivor of breast cancer.

Every year I make a donation to the Breast Cancer Foundation.

Greg's wife wasn't as lucky as my step mom. Every year more women are cured, but just the same, some are not. Please help find a cure for breast cancer by going to California Hammonds and leaving a comment and/or donatation if you can.

You might save somebody's life today.


Tricia said...

I'm so happy to hear your story Kat, you and your step mom are very lucky and I'm sure it makes her appreciate every day a little more.


Greg said...


Thank you so much for helping to promote our Commentathon, but thank you more for sharing the sweet, loving, and moving story of your stepmom.

Kat said... need to thank me, I'd do it in a heart beat again.

Thank you guys for giving me an opportunity to participate in your endeavors.

Anonymous said...

I linked from your last comment on the Commentathon.

Please know that we are thankful for your passing it on.

Note, though: "For every comment made—no more than one to a customer, please on the April 1 post—our donors have pledged differing amounts of money..."

This is to keep our numbers accurate.
Thank you. Bless you.

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