I'm the daughter of a breast cancer survivor.
Two years ago my mom and dad had a conversation with me to inform me that my mom would be under going a lumpectomy to remove two tumors found in her milk ducts. They were small little tumors, one wasn't even a full centimeter in diameter. My parents were so matter-of-fact that it took me awhile to figure out what they were talking about. I remember barely whispering....."You have breast cancer?" and then the tears came.
During the next year my mom would under go a lumpectomy, a mastectomy, six months of chemotherapy, followed by another mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. She was so brave. I am ashamed to admit that I was not as brave as I should have been. I was mad.
Maybe I had a right to be mad. I was a newly wed with a deployed husband, I was pregnant, in my last year of college and I needed my mother so badly.
I was scared. I was afraid. I never want to relive those moments but I wonder if I could have done more, or said more, or been more comforting? I will never know, and I never want to know. But I am glad I was able to help when needed and make my mom laugh when she needed it.
Thankfully my mom's story has a happy ending. She's a survivor. Her body is still fighting off the lingering effects of chemotherapy but she is cancer free. She is well. She is healthy. She is alive.
When October comes around and women and men don their pink ribbons, hats and race for a cure, I think about my mom. I also think about me.
Because I am her daughter, my risk of getting breast cancer is heightened.
My mother had no risks. She was not a smoker or drinker, she did not use hormonal birth control, she breastfed her kids for a total of nearly three years, she had no blood relatives with breast cancer. I am in the same boat with no risks, other than being the blood relative of a cancer survivor.
That scares me. But I continue to focus on prevention and one of the best preventative measures is something I learned from my mom --- breastfeeding. (If you ever wondered where my "lactivist" tendencies come from, let's just say it runs in the family!)
The American Cancer Society has begun to encourage women to breastfeed longer than the average 3-6 months to decrease their risk of breast cancer. Every year of breastfeeding reduces your risk by several percentage points. Studies also indicate that breastfeeding can aid in reducing the risk of ovarian cancer as well.
One of the founders of BestforBabes.org recently wrote a blog about her own battle with breast cancer and her devotion to the idea of prevention, rather than a cure. The blog titled "My Breast Cancer: Why I Won't Race for the Cure" had some pretty amazing facts about breastfeeding and how it is associated with a woman's risk for breast cancer:
"The evidence is clear that breast tissue is less susceptible to aberrations if you exclusively breastfeed: Breastfeeding is associated with a lower risk (a whopping 59%!!) of breast cancer in women who have a family history of the disease and at least a 28% reduction for those without one (me). And it lowers your breastfed baby girl’s lifetime risk getting breast cancer by 25% ! Sadly, millions of people have never even heard of this."
Yes, there are other ways to reduce a woman's risk. Don't smoke, don't drink, etc...but none of those pertain to me. I don't drink, smoke and you couldn't get me to take a hormonal birth control pill if you tried. So I'm doing what else I can do....I'm breastfeeding.
It goes without saying that breastmilk is the superior nutrition for an infant/child and in many cases, is life saving. But the benefits it gives mom can be just as lifesaving.
I'm not going to post a status with a sexual innuendo about my purse. Instead, I'm going to nurse, nourish, comfort and strengthen my toddler and whatever other babies and children I might have or whoever might be in need of my milk.