You know there are many kinds of courage and my family has experienced it all. I have a niece and her husband who are police officers, a niece who is an EMT and a brother-in-law who is a fire fighter; all of these jobs take obvious courage. My family has had the courage to face many personal battles as well; from alcoholism, to drug addiction, to divorce and violence, but the biggest hero in my family is my little sister, who faces cancer.
My sister’s journey started in November 2002. She called to tell me she had a doctor’s appointment that day to find out about an infection in her breast. She called me later to say they had gotten her an appointment with a surgeon and she would be talking to that doctor later that afternoon. By evening she had been given an emergency biopsy on her breast and the doctor told her he thought she had inflammatory breast cancer, but that we wouldn’t know for sure for a few days. Within days she was diagnosed with this very rare form of breast cancer that could not be detected by mammogram or ultrasound. They told us they didn’t treat this cancer the same as regular breast cancer and that she would have to have a double radical mastectomy and both ovaries removed after she first had several rounds of radiation and very strong chemo. This was all done the last weeks of November and by Christmas she was bald and ready for her surgery in February. My sister was given less than 6 months to live and she was 42 years old.
My sister has celebrated almost 6 years of living with inflammatory breast cancer. She is a hero in the truest sense of the word. I have seen her face the scariest thing in life, her own mortality, and do it with style and grace. I have seen her face danger from all the operations and infections, and have a smile on her face. I have seen her face severe pain and I didn’t know how she would get through it, but she came through like a champ. She is always quick with a joke, ready to enjoy life and full of love and fun. She makes me proud each time I look at her. She makes my small complaints seem trivial and petty. She once told me that she was so proud of her husband and daughters and with the careers they had chosen for themselves, but they don’t compare to the life my sister lives. To me a police officer, a fireman and an EMT all go to school to learn to face the dangers they will encounter, who teaches you to face the unknown of illness?
October is national Breast Cancer Awareness month so it is fitting I should tell you the story of my sister. It is a hard journey, but one we travel together as a family. She is my hero and this is her tale of courage!
Please join an Army of Women to find the cure for Breast Cancer, go to www.armyofwomen.org and help us find the cure for breast cancer in our lifetime!