July 3rd, 2012
This was a day like any other for my mom. She was working as a federal pretrial probation officer and had to cut her work day short for her annual mammogram. The day was like any other day here in the South with the temperature reaching 101 degrees here in Raleigh, North Carolina. She sat in the waiting room with the nerves any woman would normally have before seeing a doctor. Classic case of white coat syndrome. Her name is called and she follows a nurse back to the room. The mammogram is performed but something isn’t right. They take more pictures and decide to do a sonogram. There is definitely something there. Running through my mom’s mind were thoughts of the unknown. No one in our family had a history of breast cancer. It just couldn’t be. The doctor spoke with my mom, asking her to come back in for a biopsy. They told her not to worry and that everything would be okay. She made her appointment for the biopsy and headed home. Upon arriving, she had no memory of the actual drive because her mind had been racing. Breast cancer? How? Why? If so, what stage? Why her?
July 17th, 2012
My mom hadn’t been sleeping, scared of what was going on inside her body. Her biopsy results had to be in by now, but still no call. That was until this day. She received a call from a wonderfully sweet and calm nurse asking her to come into the office to see the doctor. Not good. Never good.
This was going to feel like the longest day of her life.
That afternoon, my mom drove to the doctor and inside that building, her entire life changed forever. The doctor told my mom she had stage 2 breast cancer. Of course, the first instinct is to cry and be worried, maybe even angry. My mom let the tears fall as worry washed over her in this small room that felt like it was only getting smaller. The doctor was extremely reassuring by telling my mom this is barely stage 2. The surgery to remove it would be quick. The downfall was that the spot they needed to remove was close to the breast bone. She was officially diagnosed with breast cancer, Stage IIA, M0. This means that the tumor was less than 2 cm and had not spread to distant sites. They scheduled the surgery and my mom headed for home.
With all the stress, worry, fear, anger, and sadness, my mom made it home. I remember sitting on the couch in the living room and turned to look at the door as my mom walked in. She didn’t say a word as she put her purse down on the counter and began to cry. I got up and immediately ran to hug her. I knew what this meant. My mom had breast cancer. The woman who seemed invincible and the woman who always made sure I was healthy was now crying in my arms because of cancer that silently crept into her life.
I held her as we cried. For once, I was the protector of my mom and I was there to comfort her. Soon, my father and brother arrived at home and each of us took turns embracing my mom, trying to grasp how she could possibly be feeling when we knew how much it hurt each of us.
Me being me, someone who always wants to bring light to every situation, I made a mention that if we hurried, we could still make it to the voting site before they closed. That’s right. I, Caroline Craig, decided to get my mom’s mind off of her recent diagnosis by making her go vote. We drove the two miles to the voting site where we were numbers 61-64 voting in the North Carolina Primary Runoff election to vote for Dan Forest for Lt. Governor. To this day, my mom laughs at how “insensitive” I was but also understands that it really did take her mind off of what was happening. Dan Forest won the runoff and ultimately became the Lt. Governor after the general election.
July 23rd, 2012
Surgery day. It had finally arrived. My mom recalls just wanting this cancer out of her as quickly as possible. With her lack of sleep, the week of waiting felt like an eternity. She had written her own obituary at this point and was fearful that upon surgery, the doctor might discover something had changed or that it had spread. My mother says that as she was preparing for surgery and she found herself having a moment alone, she recited the Lord’s Prayer. She felt immediate comfort surrounding her and knew that God would never allow her to go through this alone.
The surgery went well. The doctor said that the cancer was close to the bone but that they had gotten everything and that the tumor had not spread. Thank you, Lord.
She came home and recovered…for a week.
That’s right, my mom went to work a week after the cancer was removed. Just two weeks after, she was hosting international guests for a week of vacation. She never spoke of the cancer even though she knew she had to go meet with an oncologist about radiation shortly after the vacation ended. My mom underwent 20 rounds of radiation often resulting in a painful sunburn kind of feeling. She got through it like a total champion.
My mom was the epitome of strong. She was brave and courageous during a time where she could’ve wallowed in her fear and worry.
I tell you this story as a cautionary tale. My mom was getting mammograms yearly. Because of this, she caught her cancer early. Mammograms are essential to early detection. Tell everyone you love that mammograms are necessary and encourage them to get checked even if you don’t have a family history of breast cancer.
I used to be so detached from breast cancer awareness and just thought it was something I wore pink for. Now, I wear a pink ribbon and I proudly proclaim that my mom is a survivor of the second leading cause of cancer death in women. I am grateful every day for my mom’s choice to get an annual mammogram and I am grateful for God’s grace. This breast cancer awareness month, I am even more grateful that my mom can share her story and hopefully inspire others to get checked. Early detection saves lives.
Join the fight. Think Pink.
(P.S. I love you, Mom)
Future Female Leaders is donating 50% of our net proceeds from our ThinkPink line to Breast Cancer Research Foundation, where 91% of funding goes directly to breast cancer research and awareness. Please consider supporting our campaign by purchasing our ThinkPink products here.