Some little children worry about the monster under their bed. The monster I worry about is cancer. I learned today that a colleague has a large malignancy in her breast. An otherwise healthy mom in her forties, she will now face rounds of blood tests, CAT scans, MRIs, chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. Her life will never be quite the same, nor will her family's. I feel heartsick.
When I was in my thirties, a half dozen friends with no family history were diagnosed with breast cancer within a few months. For a while, I couldn't figure out why I felt so depressed. Then I realized I was not only sad for them, but scared to death for myself. One friend succumbed to the disease. Thankfully, the others survived and thrived after having mastectomies and treatment. I know it took a toll on their lives. One woman was so distraught by the thought of missing her daughter's wedding, she bought an entire set of china for her and put it away. A dear friend lives with the knowledge that every female member of her family (except her) has had breast cancer.
That's just the women I have known and cared about. In the space of just a few months, my younger brother died of pancreatic cancer, our closest friend in the world lost his battle with lung cancer, another dear friend died of multiple myeloma. A former colleague, one I adored for his wicked sense of humor, took his own life when he saw no hope.
The good news is that science is making rapid progress toward successfully treating some cancers. Years ago, leukemia was a death sentence for children. Now more than 85 percent survive. Three years ago, my son-in-law, Matt, was terribly sick with a stage 4 lymphoma. After a successful stem cell transplant, he is now in complete remission.
In the meantime, take care of yourself! Ladies, get a yearly mammogram. Don't wait around if there is something suspicious going on in your body. I hope that someday, no one will have to face the evil that is cancer. Support cancer research! It's what will defeat the monster.
I'm Chris Barabasz, retired from a 35-year career managing communications for health care development (that's fundraising for you civilians). I'm a wife, mother, grandmother and freelance writer. My husband Andy and I moved from Delaware to Texas to be closer to our daughters and three adorable grandchildren.