by Torri Singer
I remember the second she delivered the news. It was the day that challenged my faith and marked the greatest obstacle ever to be thrown in my direction. For the first time I had to imagine existence on this earth without her familiarity and love. Without her voice and embrace. The relationship I have with my grandmother, who I’ve known as Dee Dee from birth, is one of curiously elevated importance. To describe her with words is to inevitably do her no justice. Until you have been granted the privilege of experiencing the extent of her love and consideration you will be unable to comprehend exactly how intolerable the discovery that my grandmother had breast cancer was for me.
It was a typical midweek afternoon, and my grandparents were over for a visit when I arrived home from school. Dee Dee gently called for me to join them in the next room. She faced me, her velvety hand and brightly painted nails on my own. Leaning close she sighed, “Torri I have breast cancer…” My chest tightened. This could not be happening, not now, not to her. The idea of my source of reliability being stolen away from me was unbearable. I fled to my room and shortly after a knock on the door was followed by two arms wrapped around me, engulfing me in security and pushing away my hurt. It was Dee Dee. Looking at me she said with great assertion, “I am fearless, and you can be too, I need you to be.” I so admired her confidence and bravery. I had no choice but to decide then and there what type of person I would be. I could be someone whose actions are dictated by their fears, or I could be an optimistic, strong person that maintains composure and creates their own fate. I chose the latter.
With support, optimism, and rigorous medical treatment, Dee Dee fought her battle with cancer and won. I could say that her actions are courageous, defiant, extraordinary, generous, considerate, wise, or even unforgettable, but that’s not true. It’d be more accurate to simply say that it’s expected. It’s just who she is, and who I strive to be.
The harsh truth is that the statistical chance that breast cancer will be responsible for a woman’s death is about 1 in 35 ( or about 3%). This tragic cancer will most likely impact you or a loved one at some point in your life if it has not already. The craziest part about it that? Breast cancer it is completely curable if you catch it early. The keys to prevention are in early detection – something far too many people are negligent of in their daily lives. As our schedules become blurred with meetings, work, kids, school, responsibilities and appointments, it is easy to forget to take care of our health. Annual mammograms are recommended for women age 40 and older. But according to a study published last year in the online edition of Cancer, a journal of the American Cancer Society, only one in 20 women consistently follows that recommendation. Did you know that aside from non-melanoma skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women? It is the number one cause of cancer death in Hispanic women, and the second most common cause of cancer death in Black, White, and American Indian/Alaska Native women as well as Asian/Pacific Islander women. Do not be a statistic. There is no excuse for not getting annually tested, nor self testing yourself at the very least. Change the way you act and think, take a part in your health, and never lose your confidence to change your fate.