In the world we live in nearly everyone has been affected by the “c” word: cancer. It hits at the most unexpected times, in the most unexpected ways, and can leave you feeling completely hopeless. Here are the stories of four women who have been impacted by breast cancer, how they dealt with the crippling diagnosis, and the one thing they want you to know if you’re going through the same valley they once traversed.
When I was young my grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer. In 2006 she lost her battle after several long and drawn out fights.
I was very young when she was diagnosed and albeit didn’t really understand anything that was happening. As the disease progressed that only made it more confusing because I had no concept of why the things that were happening to her were and why I was losing one of my best friends.
I don’t know that I had to deal with the grief of the diagnosis at the time because as I said, I didn’t really have a concept of what was going on. Still today, though, I deal with the grief of losing one of my best friends. I think realizing that there is such a strong community surrounding women who are fighting the battle against breast cancer is a really powerful idea and one that I’ve relied on a lot. Almost everyone I know has been personally impacted or known someone who was personally impacted by breast cancer and as cheesy as it sounds, that makes you realize that you or your loved ones truly are never alone in the fight.
I didn’t realize it at the time – and I’m glad I didn’t – but towards the end of her battle there was a significant change in the ability my grandmother had to do simple things. The last time we were ever together was in Disney World. As a kid in Disney, I was obviously very excited and I remember then being very frustrated with the fact that she couldn’t keep up and she was slowing us down. Looking back, I realize that that was part of her everyday life now. Now I can’t help but be incredibly grateful for that time she spent with us. Knowing that she was going through such an immense struggle and still chose to power through spending time with her grandchildren in Disney World is an incredible feeling that I will hold on to forever. I hold that thought in my head as a reminder of what a strong and courageous woman she was and as frustrated as I was at the time, I can’t help but feel blessed that those memories are the last ones that I have with her.
My parents were my biggest support system. Even though my father had just lost his mother, I very clearly remember several times he would prioritize me or my sister over him. It was a lot of confusing emotions to deal with as a child. I knew I was sad, I sort of knew why I should be sad, but I didn’t completely comprehend what had happened to make me sad. Both of my parents did everything they could to help us understand what was happening, why it was happening, and deal with the grief surrounding it. Even more meaningful to me though was observing how my dad and his siblings ministered each other during the trial. Each of her children are several years apart in age, so each had a very unique experience growing up in her household. Seeing those individual experiences come together to create a shared memory of a wonderful woman was something that would have been comforting to anyone at the time.
Since my grandmother passed away I have watched my mom struggle in her battle with cancer and the perspective that I have on interacting with her is completely new. Don’t take time with them for granted, no matter how serious the diagnosis. Talk to them, understand what they’re feeling. Laugh with them and help them when they’re down. Soak up every moment, positive or negative. It will be hard to watch them struggle and some of those experiences will be painful, but in the end those experiences can turn into surprisingly happy memories that you will be grateful you have.