Published in the Rains County Leader on November 10, 2015:
Last week I talked about all the “national” months, weeks, and days that are on the American calendar. Specifically, I mentioned that November is National Family Caregiver Month and National Novel Writing Month. One very important month I didn’t mention is October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Some of the months are pretty low key or have limited media appeal, but with all the special events and promotions, it’s hard to miss this month, especially when 300 pound linebackers wear pink socks.
Even though the football players have gone back to their standard uniforms, the subject was on my mind last week, because it was time for me to go in for a mammogram. It’s a very familiar procedure since I found my first cyst when I was sixteen, but so far, all of my test results have been good. Thursday morning, while I was getting ready to go to the lab, I thought about all the women who have not been as blessed as I have been, women who gone in for a diagnosis and have heard the word cancer.
Many of these women have been a part of my life, but in the last few years, there are several special ones that I have encountered on a close enough basis to be aware of some of the details of their struggles. I have been amazed by the humor, strength, and courage with which they have faced this formidable enemy. Some have won and have been pronounced cancer free, some are still in treatment, and some are facing the end of a losing battle – but regardless of the outcome of their fight, all of these women are heroes.
About ten years ago, David’s Aunt Jerry had a mastectomy followed by a second one a couple of years later. She opted for prostheses rather than reconstructive surgery. She says the silicone forms are hot and uncomfortable, so when she’s at home, she usually leaves them in the drawer. However, when it’s time to go somewhere, her humor always showed up. “Give me a minute. I have to go put on the girls.”
Several years later, when we first moved to Emory, we began going to Believers’ Baptist Church. I was not aware that Tiny, the worship leader, was undergoing her own battle until she was added to the prayer list. She missed several services, and when she returned, she was sporting a stylish wig that was almost a perfect match for her natural hair. I complimented her new do, but she smiled and said, “I hate it! It’s heavy, hot, and scratchy.” It wasn’t long before the wig gave way to a colorful scarf, but the turban was still too hot. Her desire to use her God-given gift was stronger than any vanity or concern with what people would think, and until the chemo was over and her hair grew back, she praised the Lord with a bare head.
A couple of years ago, a Florida friend named Cindy was told that her cancer had recurred. Since then, she has gone through several courses of treatment, but last month she was told that none of them had been effective, and she was put on hospice care. Her many friends have rallied around her, and one of them has taken on the task of helping her long-distance friends share this season of her life by posting updates and photographs. I have been amazed by the courage and faith Cindy has shown and the radiant smile she wears in every picture. Shortly after she moved into the facility, her friends gathered to share treasured memories and to show their love for her. As part of the decorations, a beautiful wedding dress was displayed in a corner, and Cindy wore a wedding veil. The caption on the party pictures read “Like a bride…Waiting for her groom…She’ll be a church ready for you…Every heart longing for our King” I guess that explains the radiance – every bride is beautiful.
I’m dedicating this column to these heroic women and millions of others who have fought a good fight. Whether they won or lost, each step adds to what we know about this dreadful disease. One of the things we know is that early detection is the key to survival. In honor of all those who have gone before, don’t neglect your check-ups.
P.S. For anyone who is interested in my progress on the novel I’m writing this month, my word count is up to 15,635.