Breast Cancer, Mom, and the Number 19

Mom died nineteen years ago today. Breast cancer. She got sick when I was a kid– it was a rare time when she cried, but she did so in the car while we were going somewhere unimportant.

“Why are you crying, mom?”

“They found a lump in my breast.”

A short sentence with long consequences.

She was sick for years– after six surgeries, she said, “I don’t want them to cut me any more.” 

So, we didn’t let them. 
For some people 20 is a more important marker based on our fingers and toes, but I damned near lost a finger nine years ago (they sewed it back on, it works) so 19 is important, too. I could be counting to 19 save for a dollop of good luck and a great surgeon.


She died from radiation tumors. They killed her just as surely as a slow moving train, but in the end, it was too much. She missed us before she was gone; we miss her still. I fed her a tomato and mayo sandwich ( her favorite) and then on a Tuesday she couldn’t eat. Then, she couldn’t speak, and then, she was gone. I scrubbed a small spot of urine ( there is no dignity in cancer) from the blue shag carpet, and I wondered if she would be standing there when it was clean. She wasn’t.

I think I mock activists too much, but it might be my own bitterness ( I still am, always will be), but get checked out. She was 34 when she got sick. She was 52 when she died. There were a lot of horrid nights from the chemo. I don’t know if it could be avoided, but I looked to see how long a mammogram takes– it isn’t long– but I guarantee you the wait in a doctor’s office for that procedure is far shorter than a day like she had.

So get checked out, that’s all.

Terry

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