Breast Cancer's Impact On My Mother

Breast Cancer's Impact On My Mother

Remembering what I watched my mother going through when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

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My new primary care practitioner asked me a lot of questions about my family's health history. I have quite a few chronic illnesses running through my family: high blood pressure, schizophrenia, diabetes, Crohn's disease, multiple sclerosis, alcoholism. One I haven't talked about, though, is my mother's survival with breast cancer.

My mother was diagnosed earlier the same year I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease. She discovered the lump in her chest on her own and went in to have it checked out. She started chemotherapy very soon afterward.

My mother has always been a healthy person, barely even getting colds. So it was beyond difficult to see her deteriorate. The chemo had her vomiting several times a day. She coughed a lot. She even coughed through her sleep. Then came the hair loss.

I can't tell you how many times I cried watching her go through this. How many times I'd check on her during the night to make sure cancer didn't take her in her sleep. Her coughing fits woke me up sometimes. Or maybe I was just so aware of them that they woke me.

I didn't understand why this had to happen to her. I wanted her to see me graduate from high school and college. I wanted her to see me get married. I wanted her to see me become a writer. I wanted her to see me succeed in the world.

Once the lump was gone, the doctors wanted to make sure it didn't come back. So my mom had to lose her left breast. Losing one of her breasts was one of the hardest things for my mother. For a while, it was difficult for her to believe she was a woman anymore.

I don't have the skill to describe to you the scar that's permanent across her chest where her left breast used to be.

Sometime later, her prosthetic breast came in the mail. Though she frequently had to keep my brother and me from playing with it, it made her feel a lot better. She was able to wear bras evenly again. She was able to wear her favorite shirts again. Once her hair grew back out, she was finally back to normal again.

Since my mother was diagnosed close to the age I am now, my doctor ordered me a breast exam. The first I'd ever heard of the exam was through my mother, and it sounded painful. Many other women since then have said how painful it is. So I figured that wasn't something I'd worry about till God willing I reached 40.

Yet at 37 here I was going to Metro Hospital to get my first breast exam.

The technician had me take off my deodorant since the majority of deodorants have aluminum in them making it show up on the images. She put some kind of special tape over my nipples before we officially began.

Since I'm very heavy chested, there had to be many images taken since my chest couldn't fit in just a few images. There were side images as well as direct images. I saw the need for the machine to come down on my breasts and make them flat, but that didn't make it any more comfortable.

Sometimes she had it come down really tight, other times it was just uncomfortable. The side view pictures were more painful than the direct pictures since my breast had to stay up at an unnatural angle on the machine. And of course, I had to hold my breath whenever a picture was being taken.

"What a test men came up with for us right?" the tech said to me as she was maneuvering my breast for another photo.

So there's a sneak peek into what a breast exam will be like. Though it's uncomfortable, it's needed.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month this month so consider scheduling a mammogram — even if you don't have a family history of breast cancer as I do.

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Everything You Will Miss If You Commit Suicide

The world needs you.
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You won't see the sunrise or have your favorite breakfast in the morning.

Instead, your family will mourn the sunrise because it means another day without you.

You will never stay up late talking to your friends or have a bonfire on a summer night.

You won't laugh until you cry again, or dance around and be silly.

You won't go on another adventure. You won't drive around under the moonlight and stars.

They'll miss you. They'll cry.

You won't fight with your siblings only to make up minutes later and laugh about it.

You won't get to interrogate your sister's fiancé when the time comes.

You won't be there to wipe away your mother's tears when she finds out that you're gone.

You won't be able to hug the ones that love you while they're waiting to wake up from the nightmare that had become their reality.

You won't be at your grandparents funeral, speaking about the good things they did in their life.

Instead, they will be at yours.

You won't find your purpose in life, the love of your life, get married or raise a family.

You won't celebrate another Christmas, Easter or birthday.

You won't turn another year older.

You will never see the places you've always dreamed of seeing.

You will not allow yourself the opportunity to get help.

This will be the last sunset you see.

You'll never see the sky change from a bright blue to purples, pinks, oranges, and yellows meshing together over the landscape again.

If the light has left your eyes and all you see is the darkness, know that it can get better. Let yourself get better.

This is what you will miss if you leave the world today.

This is who will care about you when you are gone.

You can change lives. But I hope it's not at the expense of yours.

We care. People care.

Don't let today be the end.

You don't have to live forever sad. You can be happy. It's not wrong to ask for help.

Thank you for staying. Thank you for fighting.

Suicide is a real problem that no one wants to talk about. I'm sure you're no different. But we need to talk about it. There is no difference between being suicidal and committing suicide. If someone tells you they want to kill themselves, do not think they won't do it. Do not just tell them, “Oh you'll be fine." Because when they aren't, you will wonder what you could have done to help. Sit with them however long you need to and tell them it will get better. Talk to them about their problems and tell them there is help. Be the help. Get them assistance. Remind them of all the things they will miss in life.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255

Cover Image Credit: Brittani Norman

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The Truth About Narcan, Insulin, And Who Pays For What

"Stupid junkies, I have to pay for my Insulin but they get Narcan FOR FREE. Can you believe that?"

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Naloxone.

Let's talk about it. Naloxone, commonly referred to as Narcan or Evzio is a "medication designed to rapidly reverse opioid overdose." According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Naloxone basically reverses the effects of an overdose.

As you see on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and every other social media platform in the world, "junkies" get indirectly bashed, undermined, and in a nutshell, told that they don't deserve a place on earth.

The most common argument used by "non-addicts" is "I have to pay for my Insulin for my diabetes, but they get Narcan for free? Wow, our government sucks and the system is a joke."

For those of you that don't know, diabetes is a disease in which the body's ability to produce or respond to the hormone, insulin, is impaired, resulting in abnormal metabolism of carbohydrates and elevated levels of glucose in the blood and urine.

There are two types of this disease: Type 1 Diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes that result from a variety of different factors. Diabetes can be acquired through genetics but can also be personally obtained through lifestyle, depending on the type. Aside from genetics and being born into a diabetic family, you may also be diagnosed with diabetes as a result of physical inactivity, high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol, and being overweight. In other words, if you let your body go, don't work out or do some type of physical activity, let your high blood pressure go untreated, and eat unhealthy foods; you have a chance of developing diabetes.

Next, let's talk about prices.

On average, Insulin costs $200 monthly. This depends on the brand, personal insurance, coupons, and other factors such as organizations that help people get cheaper insulin.

Narcan nasal spray costs $130 for a two-time use. You can buy it at CVS Pharmacy (and other pharmacies) in states such as Ohio, Arkansas, California, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Wisconsin. Some of these states may require a prescription.

Now that you know that Narcan/Evzio isn't free, it's time to talk about other charges that are brought upon addicts when they overdose. If an ambulance is called, they have to pay for it. If they are sent to the emergency room, they also have to pay for that.

The idea that "junkies" get Narcan for free is something society has made up to make drug users feel even more guilt than they already do from having an addiction alone.

Believe it or not, most of us are addicted to something that can be fatal or cause illness/injury. If you eat processed foods or sugar ridden foods every day, chances are you have an addiction to sugar. The withdrawal that someone has from quitting sugar is similar to the withdrawal that one goes through from quitting heroin. You get a splitting headache, you have cold sweats, you are moody, and it makes you sick. If you drink coffee all day on most days and you try to quit, it results in an awful headache for a few days. The addiction to cigarettes and the withdrawal that people go through for that speaks for itself; we all know a smoker or an ex-smoker.

Instead of following social norms, degrading drug users and putting ourselves on a pedestal because we don't use heroin or another "hard drug," we should advocate for the health and stand up for each other. If you see someone on the street that you know is a drug user, pull them aside and pray with them. Help them find a better life. Recommend church, rehab, or any other ideas that may be at your fingertips to mention.

The moral of the story is this: we all have an addiction, hypocrisy is at it's finest thanks to social media, and we are all human. Walk a mile in someone else's shoes before you judge them. It doesn't cost a dime to shed light on someone's life, especially when they are in need.

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