Archive for the ‘African-American women’ Category

Our New Vision and Mission

August 20, 2013

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This morning, Living Beyond Breast Cancer’s CEO Jean Sachs released the following message to our friends and supporters:

Dear Friends:

All of us at Living Beyond Breast Cancer are excited to share our new vision and mission statements with you:

Our new vision

A world where no one impacted by breast cancer feels uninformed or alone.

Our new mission

To connect people with trusted breast cancer information and a community of support.

These new statements were developed with the help of over 1,200 of you who responded to a survey we sent out earlier this year. Your input was used in a day-long retreat with members of the board of directors and staff. We learned what LBBC services are valued most and why so many have come to depend on our educational programs and services that allow for connection to others diagnosed with breast cancer.

For me, these new statements say with clarity what we strive to do every day and what we hope to achieve over time. Yesterday, I spoke with a long-time friend who had just been diagnosed with breast cancer.  She was overwhelmed, scared and shocked. Our conversation and the resources I was able to put in her hands grounded her and provided her with enough comfort and confidence to take the next step.

This is what LBBC does every day, and it is exactly what the new vision and mission statements express.

I hope you share my enthusiasm and, as always, if you have comments I would love to hear from you.

Warmly,

Jean 

Jean A. Sachs, MSS, MLSP

Chief Executive Officer

LBBC

Give LBBC Your Feedback About Peggy Orenstein’s New York Times Article, “Our Feel-Good War on Cancer”

May 3, 2013

2012JeanSachsHeadshotVer2WebBy Jean A. Sachs, MSS, MLSP, Living Beyond Breast Cancer’s chief executive officer 

Journalist Peggy Orenstein ignited a debate when she explored the limits of mammography screening and the dangers of overtreatment for breast cancer in her New York Times Magazine article, “Our Feel-Good War on Cancer” (April 25, 2013).

For many in the breast cancer community, Ms. Orenstein’s observations come as no surprise. We know survival rates for women with metastatic disease have not changed, despite the widespread adoption of breast cancer screening. That women with ductal carcinoma in situ, or DCIS, often receive the same treatments as those with invasive disease—along with the related side effects and emotional distress. That more and more women choose prophylactic mastectomy after a diagnosis of DCIS or early-stage disease. And that our sisters with stage IV breast cancer remain silenced, isolated and underserved.

Still, the article introduced thousands of people to the realities of breast cancer today. As we talked about it at the LBBC office, we had many questions. How did this piece impact you and your loved ones? We want to know:

  • What is your perspective?
  • What questions does this article prompt for you?
  • What are your concerns for your health or well-being, based on what you learned?
  • Which issues deserve more discussion?

Based on your feedback, Living Beyond Breast Cancer will design a program to help further discussion. Please post your comments below, and our staff will review them.

YOGA ON THE STEPS: WASHINGTON, DC REGISTRATION NOW OPEN

March 13, 2013

 

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Registration is now open for Yoga on the Steps: Washington DC, the signature education and fundraising event for Haverford, PA-based nonprofit Living Beyond Breast Cancer.  The event is scheduled to take place rain or shine beginning at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, June 13 on the northeast quadrant of The Washington Monument.  The highlight of the event is a one-hour yoga class for all ages and skill levels designed and led by Yoga Alliance certified instructor and founder of Yoga Unites® Jennifer Schelter, MFA with Kirtan accompaniment by Yvette Pecoraro and other local area musicians. After the class, participants can enjoy refreshments while visiting a Healthy Living Expo where event sponsors, local area businesses, yoga studios and nonprofit organizations will feature products and services promoting health and wellness.

“While Yoga on the Steps is similar to other nonprofit grassroots fundraisers it really is a one-of-kind event,” explains Jenna Jackson, LBBC’s special events manager.  “People are asked to register as a team captain or participant at yogaonthesteps.org and then fundraise for LBBC by asking family, friends and colleagues for donations. But instead of using a walk or run as our event’s centerpiece, we feature a yoga class.  Jennifer has designed the class so that anyone, regardless of skill level or body type can participate. Yoga on the Steps is a unique and powerful education program in its promotion of yoga as an important part of a person’s overall wellness plan.” t is scheduled to take place rain or shine beginning at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, June 13 on the northeast quadrant of The Washington Monument.  The highlight of the event is a one-hour yoga class for all ages and skill levels designed and led by Yoga Alliance certified instructor and founder of Yoga Unites® Jennifer Schelter, MFA with Kirtan accompaniment by Yvette Pecoraro and other local area musicians. After the class, participants can enjoy refreshments while visiting a Healthy Living Expo where event sponsors, local area businesses, yoga studios and nonprofit organizations will feature products and services promoting health and wellness.

What has grown into LBBC’s signature education and fundraising event began after Schelter’s friend and student, Courtney Kapp, was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Kapp wanted to use her home as a place where women with the disease could form a support network through the practice of yoga. She asked Jennifer to teach the class and also introduced her to LBBC’s executive director (now chief executive officer) Jean Sachs, MSS, MLSP. Together, the three women founded Yoga on the Steps.

“Now,” says Sachs, “thousands of people, most with no formal training, annually attend Yoga on the Steps in different cities to raise awareness of LBBC’s resources, stand in solidarity with women diagnosed with breast cancer and honor the memories of those who are no longer with us.”

Studies continue to indicate a correlation between yoga’s stretching exercises, controlled breathing and relaxation techniques with stress reduction, lower blood pressure and improved heart function. “More and more studies we’ve been seeing, especially over the last few years, really confirm the relevance of Yoga on the Steps,” states Sachs.

 

A study conducted by UCLA researchers suggests that yoga can help women overcome post-treatment fatigue which is estimated to affect as many as one-third of women currently in breast cancer treatment. The research, which was published December 16, 2011 in the journal Cancer, discovered that after three-months-worth of twice-weekly yoga classes, “a group of breast cancer survivors in California reported significantly diminished fatigue and increased vigor,” Andrew M. Seaman of Reuters Health said. Cancer, Volume 118, Issue 15

In addition, at the 34th Annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium held in 2011, a study presented findings that women with metastatic breast cancer might benefit from the practice of yoga, as well. A small randomized trial was collaboratively conducted by yogis and physicians, including S.K. Gopinath, MD, from the Department of Surgical, Medical and Radiation Oncology at the HCG-BIO Super Specialty Center in Bangalore, Karnataka, India. The researchers found data that suggest the practice of yoga might reduce psychological distress and modulate abnormal cortisol levels as well as immune responses in patients with stage-IV disease. Medscape News Today

In 2011, LBBC began the implementation of a national Yoga on the Steps expansion initiative developed by the organization’s Board of Directors and senior staff as part of LBBC’s 2011-2015 strategic plan.  “Yoga on the Steps is a low-cost, high-return way to introduce LBBC resources to communities that may not know of their availability,” explains Sachs.  “We’ve established annual events in Philadelphia, Washington, DC and Denver with Kansas City, Missouri recently named as our fourth Yoga on the Steps host city.”

“The increasing popularity of yoga is a big factor in the growing success of the event,” she continues. “But more than that, it’s LBBC’s reputation of sound fiscal management and the trust our supporters have in us that energizes Yoga on the Steps participants to fundraise for LBBC at the grassroots level. We maintain the lowest overhead possible for the event ensuring our resources are always available to anyone in need.”

LBBC’s most recent annual report, released in July of 2011, shows that 86 cents of every donated dollar is used to fund services. For eight consecutive years LBBC has been awarded a four-star rating by Charity Navigator, the  country’s leading organization that evaluates American nonprofits, signifying it exceeds industry standards and outperforms most other charities within its cause. LBBC 2011 Annual Report

Businesses wanting to learn more about national and local sponsorship opportunities and benefits are asked to contact LBBC’s associate director of marketing and corporate relations Kevin Gianotto, at kevin@lbbc.org. General Yoga on the Steps and Healthy Living Expo questions should be directed to Jackson by emailing jenna@lbbc.org. 

About

LBBC provides services designed to help improve quality of life for women who are newly diagnosed, in treatment, recovery, years beyond their diagnosis or living with metastatic breast cancer as well as resources for family, friends and caregivers.  National conferences, monthly teleconferences, regional community meetings, the Guides to Understanding Breast Cancer and a toll-free Survivors’ Helpline are examples of the services that are provided to help them make informed decisions for themselves and their families. 

If you are or someone you know is living with a history of breast cancer, regardless of stage of diagnosis, age, race, religion, sexual orientation or ability to pay, LBBC can help. For more information, visit lbbc.org to download a free copy of Empower, LBBC’s general information brochure or call (610) 645-4567.

Living Beyond Breast Cancer and Metastatic Breast Cancer Network Release New Publication

January 8, 2013

For Immediate Release:

GUIDE FOR THE NEWLY DIAGNOSED JOINS GROWING RESOURCE LIBRARY FOR WOMEN WITH STAGE IV DISEASE

MBCS: Newly Diagnosed

January 8, 2013; Philadelphia, PA | Living Beyond Breast Cancer (LBBC) and the Metastatic Breast Cancer Network (MBCN) have announced the release of a free publication to help address the needs women have in the first months following a diagnosis of metastatic (stage IV) breast cancer. The Metastatic Breast Cancer Series: Guide for the Newly Diagnosed is the newest title in LBBC’s growing library of Guides to Understanding Breast Cancer, free publications designed specifically to empower women with the information needed to make the best and most informed decisions for themselves and their families when facing a breast cancer diagnosis and considering options for treatment and disease management.

As someone living with metastatic breast cancer, Shirley Mertz knows firsthand of the physical and emotional impact of a stage IV diagnosis. Mertz, the president of MBCN, reflected on her personal experience and commented, “Most new metastatic breast cancer patients feel overwhelmed with anxiety and a loss of control over their lives. This new publication will remind women that knowledge is power, help them find courage to educate themselves about metastatic breast cancer and hopefully open the door to better treatment selection and outcomes.”

The Metastatic Breast Cancer Series: Guide for the Newly Diagnosed is designed to help women navigate the first few days, weeks and months after a first-time, stage IV breast cancer diagnosis or metastatic recurrence. The guide focuses on medical, emotional and practical concerns with the goal of helping readers to understand the biology of metastatic disease, form questions they may need or want to ask and provide available resources that improve emotional and physical wellness.

“Living Beyond Breast Cancer and the Metastatic Breast Cancer Network worked together to create this resource to help women become their best advocates,” said Jean A. Sachs, MSS, MLSP, LBBC’s chief executive officer. “This guide will help women understand the tests and treatments they may undergo and address the impact that metastatic breast cancer can have on emotional well-being.”

Nearly 150,000 people—women and men—are living with metastatic breast cancer in the United States and while a diagnosis of this type is life-changing, advances in research and treatment have made it possible for many to live longer, more fulfilling lives. LBBC and MBCN worked diligently to ensure that this guide was available to help bridge the gap between initial diagnosis and life beyond.

“I wish something like this had been available to me when I was first diagnosed, for my benefit and the benefit of family and friends who had—and still have—so many questions,” says Cindy Colangelo, a member of the consumer advisory committee that reviewed the guide’s content for accuracy. “Hopefully, this guide will help people acknowledge the elephant in the room that no one wants to discuss. Our goal is to provide a greater understanding of metastatic breast cancer and help affected women and families move forward by answering questions, providing information and giving hope.”

In addition to Colangelo and other women living with metastatic breast cancer, the guide was also reviewed by LBBC and MBCN staff, health care professionals, medical and surgical oncologists, social workers, nurses, researchers, and a palliative care specialist, led by William Gradishar, MD, of the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University.

“As a group facilitator, I’m excited to present this guide to patients who seek wisdom, guidance and support,” says Marie Lavigne, LCSW, OSW-CAs, an oncology social worker and a member of the medical review team. “As with all of LBBC and MBCN’s offerings, it provides a cornerstone to the essential needs of women diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer – clear, honest information, hope and inspiration when they need it the most.”

The Metastatic Breast Cancer Series: Guide for the Newly Diagnosed is divided into six sections written in clear and easy-to-understand language. Individual copies of the guide are free and can be ordered online at lbbc.org or by calling (610) 645-4567. Larger quantities may also be ordered for a small shipping and handling fee. Additional resources can be found through LBBC’s Understanding Guides: Metastatic Breast Cancer Series and through MBCN. LBBC’s titles are: Treatment Options for Today and Tomorrow, Managing Stress and Anxiety, Symptoms and Treatment Side Effects and Understanding Palliative Care. MBCN’s titles are: Diagnosis: Metastatic Breast Cancer…What does it mean for you? and Get the Facts.

About Living Beyond Breast Cancer
For over 20 years, Living Beyond Breast Cancer has been providing educational resources and support services to women of all ages who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. LBBC helps improve the quality of life for these women by empowering them with the information they need to make the best and most informed decisions for themselves and their families. National conferences, monthly teleconferences, regional community meetings, the Guides to Understanding Breast Cancer and a toll-free Survivors’ Helpline are just a few examples of the services that are provided, always at little or no cost.

If someone you know has recently been diagnosed, is in treatment, recovery, years beyond their diagnosis or living with metastatic breast cancer, LBBC can help. For more information, visit lbbc.org, call (610) 645-4567 or download a free copy of Empower, LBBC’s general information brochure.

About Metastatic Breast Cancer Network
The Metastatic Breast Cancer Network, a national, patient-led organization, works to raise awareness of metastatic breast cancer within the breast cancer community and public. MBCN encourages women and men living with the disease to raise their voices to demand support, resources and more research for metastatic disease.
MBCN provides education and information to metastatic people and their caregivers. Visit mbcn.org or call (888) 500-0370 to access education, support and advocacy resources.

Aundreia Alexander: Nurturing Your Spirit

June 25, 2012

 On Tuesday, June 26th, Living Beyond Breast Cancer will host a community meeting where Rev. Aundreia Alexander will discuss “Nurturing Your Spirit.” Here at the LBBC Blog, Aundreia–an ordained minister, breast cancer survivor and  “Writing the Journey” participant–shares two poems of her own creation.

Light Overcomes Darkness

Light shines brightest against the backdrop of darkness.
Light shines through a crack, a speck; a flicker through a keyhole.

Light shines like the stars on the clearest night;

Light in the sky – a full moon in a dense forest.


Do What Comes Naturally

How beautiful is the light that breaks through the darkness!

I never learned to whistle a tune

So when I hear birds whistle, chirp and tweet, I envy them.

Then I think – how silly – they do what comes naturally.

So I embrace the chorus of whistles, chirps and tweets from my feathered friends.

And I dance – I swerve, I sway, I glide – in unison with the melodious sounds of beautiful music.

I do what comes naturally to me.

For more information of the June community meeting, Nurturing the Spirit, as well as future topics, visit the LBBC Events Page.

Video Blog Series: Advocacy in Action on Metastatic Breast Cancer – Part Six

April 20, 2012

On April 28th and 29th, 2012, Living Beyond Breast Cancer will host its Sixth Annual Conference for Women Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer which is a one-of-a-kind educational program designed for women living with metastatic disease, caregivers and healthcare providers. During the four weeks before the event, the LBBC blog will feature a series of short videos featuring our own Elyse Spatz Caplan, Director of Programs and Partnerships,  with Advocacy in Action discussing the needs of women living with metastatic breast cancer.


This sixth video tackles the discussion on metastatic breast cancer research.

Elyse Spatz Caplan, MA, Director, Programs and Partnerships

Video Link: Metastatic Breast Cancer Discussion – Part Six

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Visit our website for more information on the Conference for Women Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer and to Register for the April event. Additional resources can be found through LBBC’s Understanding Guides: Metastatic Breast Cancer Series.  Later this year, LBBC will produce a guide for women newly diagnosed with advanced disease.

Video Blog Series: Advocacy in Action on Metastatic Breast Cancer – Part Five

April 16, 2012

On April 28th and 29th, 2012, Living Beyond Breast Cancer will host its Sixth Annual Conference for Women Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer which is a one-of-a-kind educational program designed for women living with metastatic disease, caregivers and healthcare providers. During the four weeks before the event, the LBBC blog will feature a series of short videos featuring our own Elyse Spatz Caplan, Director of Programs and Partnerships,  with Advocacy in Action discussing the needs of women living with metastatic breast cancer.


This fifth video tackles the discussion on diversity in the metastatic cancer community.

Elyse Spatz Caplan, MA, Director, Programs and Partnerships

Video Link: Metastatic Breast Cancer Discussion – Part Five

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Visit our website for more information on the Conference for Women Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer and to Register for the April event. Additional resources can be found through LBBC’s Understanding Guides: Metastatic Breast Cancer Series.  Later this year, LBBC will produce a guide for women newly diagnosed with advanced disease.

Honored for my sincere efforts

January 23, 2012

This entry was written by Tyesha Love, 2012 Butterfly Ball Gala Honoree and LBBC advocate. The Butterfly Ball honors women who have made an impact in the community by helping others affected by breast cancer. 

After my season with cancer, I developed a passion for educating, empowering and supporting other survivors and their loved ones. I wanted to inspire them to hold on to hope, just as so many others had done for me in my season. My family, friends and various cancer organizations gave encouragement and showed their support in a plethora of ways. They were a major impact on my recovery as their support was crucial to my holding on to faith and hope.

My goal simply became to engender awareness, offer support and provide comfort and empathy to other survivors, their loved ones and caregivers. I find such joy having a positive impact on their lives the way so many had on mine. I never sought or expected to get anything more from my efforts, other than the feeling of gratification from having touched people’s lives. It was heartwarming to learn that survivors and their loved ones were moved by my experience and efforts.

Needless to say, when Living Beyond Breast Cancer requested to have me as an honoree at their 2012 Butterfly Ball for my courage, strength and compassion, I was completely surprised. Astounded, anxious and excited…I humbly accepted.

My experience, having been diagnosed with cancer, has been a stepping stone, not a setback. While in my season, I cursed cancer. I doubted my ability to overcome such a plight. I allowed myself to feel defeated and become the victim. My memoir, I Am Not My Hair, A young woman’s journey and triumph over breast cancer, shares my story – a raw, authentic, frank and genuine telling of a season with cancer; an overwhelming roller coaster ride of victory and defeat.

Further into my journey toward survivorship, I realized cancer came as a blessing in disguise. Instead of allowing myself to get lost in a world of cancer, I triumphed over the disease. I grew stronger; I saw life with a new set of eyes – cherishing loved ones and valuing the simple things in life more so than I ever did. I wanted nothing more than to give back and that is what I set out to do for other survivors.

Having LBBC acknowledge and reward my efforts is such a great honor. It is an honor to receive an award for something I simply felt I was being called to do; something I felt was my responsibility to other survivors. This acknowledgement is proof I have and continue to accomplish what I set out to do and it is motivation to continue in this mission.

What I look forward to most as a Butterfly Ball honoree is to be in the presence of other survivors – being motivated and inspired by their stories. I look forward to the enhanced feeling of accomplishment – the success of making a positive impact on the lives of others who are pushing their way thought a season with cancer. I eagerly await this event to celebrate with those whom dedicate their time and resources to empowering others.

The Butterfly Ball will be held at the Philadelphia Loews Hotel on Saturday, November 10, 2012.

The Preparation…

December 12, 2011

This entry was written by Nickia Walker who was diagnosed with with Stage I breast cancer at a grade of 3:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

Just as a trainer prepares his fighter for his opponent, God has prepared me for the fight of my life. When you don’t take time out for God you miss out on what he needs you to know, or do. I recall the morning when the Lord spoke to my heart whispering into my spirit, “Nickia, be in preparation for greatness, but in the mist you must carry the cross.” I remember becoming uneasy about what that could mean. Excited about what greatness could be, but not willing, so-to-speak, to take on the heaviness of that cross. I cried out, “Lord why?” I couldn’t deny what I was feeling for He already knows my heart. Then the still voice said, “I never said I sent YOU to the front line.” Whoa! That spoke to me, awakening that dead thing within me preparing me for whatever was ahead.

“I’m nothing without Christ, just dust, but with Him I’m more than a conqueror, I’m victorious, and I’m prepared!”

Later that night the excitement was still fresh & alive! I told my children what we need to do, but explaining to them carrying the cross could mean anything, and the attack we may face we shall not fear. Not long after that I felt the lump in my breast and soon received that phone call which I will never forget. I was at work when I received the call and had about 7 hours left. God had already prepared my heart & mind which prepared me to finish out my day, caring for those who weren’t able to care for themselves with a smile on my face, and gentleness in my touch. I quietly told God “well, here we go, and we got work to do”. My part is easier than I thought, I just have to follow. I’m just needed to play the back-round. He’s a thousand steps ahead of me, He’s already cleared the way. God made it clear to me that He doesn’t need ME on home-front. All He asks is that we: read the Word, stay on our knees, thank Him through it, and stand on His promises.

On those not-so-good days, you and I may find ourselves balled up in the corner of our bedroom. But God whispers “keep your head up, you’re almost there, you can do it, just trust Me, I’ll never leave you, nor forsake you”. As the trainee watches the tapes of his opponent studying his every move, God has shown me that my competition has already been defeated.

However, there’s rules to this battle. I must never lose sight of what’s in front of me. I must never feel as if I am strong enough to stand alone, because my strength comes from the bread of life. I don’t have to worry about getting weak, because God said his grace is made sufficient for me, his power is made perfect in my weakness.

The bell rang! They said what’s about to hit me can take me out for the count. Then God said, but I said No Weapon Formed Against You Shall Prosper. But Lord I heard his people in the corner talking smack, telling me I better brace myself because I may lose some things that I hold dear. Then God said, I will bless your latter end more than your beginning. God restores all! Finally, it is my duty to tell the people of God’s goodness even before my storm is over, that’s the kind of faith I have, and this is what he expects of us all. I’m able to breathe when I steal away time with the Lord. I can function, I can write in this blog, I’m nothing without Christ, just dust, but with Him I’m more than a conqueror, I’m victorious, and I’m prepared!

Be sure to check out Nickia’s blog!

I was 12-years-old and didn’t understand its power

November 9, 2011

Mohammed Adam Jr. is the 19-year-old grandson of Wanda L. Brown, a 7-year triple negative breast cancer survivor and President and Co-founder of Sisters Network Columbus OH, Inc. When Mohammed was 12-years-old, and his grandmother shared the news with family and friends his innocent age hindered him from understanding the toll of events that would later follow. In this school essay written by Mohammed his freshmen year of college, he shares his experience of watching not only his grandmother’s recovery from breast cancer, but Mohammed was very observant of the emotional brokenness that the diagnosis played on his very own mother.  

As a young child growing up, my parents tried to protect me from many situations such as, death, drugs and alcohol.  Disease is one unfortunate thing which is unavoidable.  When I was twelve my grandmother, on my mother’s side, was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Breast cancer has devastated many women and their families all over the world– I never thought that it would grow so close to me.

On a peaceful autumn evening, during early night hours, my grandmother was in her room preparing for a well-deserved relaxation period after a long day.  In the past she had heard many stories of women discovering the tumor themselves through self-examination, while others stumbled across an unfamiliar lump in their bosom.

With thoughts of past women and their stories in mind, my grandmother made the vital decision to exercise her intelligence.  She gave herself an inspection in search of this infamous lump. She unexpectedly discovered it. 

“It can’t be cancer– at least I hope it’s not,” she thought, with a puzzled expression.

She was unmindful to the fact that this lump was a developing army of malignant cells.  Before her doctor’s appointment, my grandmother continued to go through with her regular every day routines as if everything was fine; which in her mind she was.

November 4th during her scheduled appointment with her physician; “Is the lump cancerous or is it something else?” 

The doctor had demanded her wandering attention before breaking the news.  He admitted that, the mountainous thing she discovered in her chest could possibly be cancerous.  But she didn’t give much thought to the potential dangers of the situation at hand; especially since this cellular deformity didn’t exist in our family’s history.  She was more concerned about her Christmas plans and wondered how she would celebrate her upcoming birthday.  A later biopsy confirmed that the tumor was cancerous.

During one of her many mother-daughter conversations that she had with my mom on a regular basis–you know, the ones where they share laughs and stories and also catch up on recent events– she mentioned everything that had occurred, from that shocking autumn evening till present.  She was very demure about the incidents.  But she said it was cancer.  The mood of the conversation abruptly shifted.  Devastated, overwhelmed, shocked– none of these words could truly describe the emotions my mother conjured up from the despicable words:  “I have cancer.”  

Deviating from thinking as the nurse she is, but instead a concerned child, my mother truly believed that cancer meant death.  My mother has cancer– my mother is dying; it was all the same.  This heartbreaking moment, she will remember forever.  Despite feeling as though her heart was ripped out and dispassionately thrown into the never ending abyss, she knew that keeping her composure, staying strong, and being encouraging was best. She had to keep a stone-face and not show her true hurt.

My grandmother organized a family gathering where she broke the news and told everyone that she’d recently been diagnosed with stage two triple-negative breast cancer. All of this she said with a smile. It was as if to assure us that everything would be okay.  Everyone was shocked by the news.  At the time I was twelve, the most I knew about cancer was that it caused tumors and it was a zodiac sign.  I was ignorant to its power.

It was time for surgery.  It was December.  While everyone was thinking about what they would get for Christmas, my grandmother was recovering from a surgery. My mom was more emotionally involved than I was.  In the presence of my grandmother she would be as uplifting as possible, but at home, I witnessed her inner sorrow.

My grandma’s war with breast cancer made her decide that she would participate in spreading the word and explain to women that this illness is one that is non-discriminatory and that anyone can be affected by it.  Educating women, of any ethic background, about breast cancer occupied a large portion of her life.  In 2007 she started the Sister’s Network and became president. 

This disease has produced great turmoil in many families. I’ve learned how not to take life or anything in it for granted because it could be here today and gone tomorrow.  Despite life’s difficulties, you just have to keep moving forward.

Encourage your pre-teenager to give a perspective and join in on this discussion that targets younger-aged caregivers. Was your pre-teen, like Mohammed, oblivious to what cancer really is, or did s/he have more insight on the disease? Comment here or on our Facebook page.


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