By Tehniyet Azam

I studied cancer in a few of my courses while I was attending school but I did not know that I would soon be involved in caring for someone with breast cancer. You hear and read about cancers but you don’t grasp the severity of these diseases till it hits home. I experienced this realization when my aunt, my mom’s elder cousin, who is like a sister to my mom, was diagnosed with breast cancer.
When my aunt was diagnosed with cancer we were in disbelief, but we had to gather our emotions and be strong so that we could be there for her. One thing that I learned from my aunt was that one needs to be strong willed when diagnosed with cancer. Even when she was diagnosed with the disease she was the calmest person amongst all of the family. She went to her doctors regularly and took all the medications that she was prescribed.
After two months, my aunt was scheduled for a single mastectomy. The warrior spirit she possessed did not let cancer discourage or upset her. She was always in full spirits and would help us understand that it’s nothing she couldn’t handle and that if we just stuck together we will conquer cancer. She went through radiation and chemotherapy during the treatment process. Those days were the most painful days of her fight. She would feel so weak, especially when she would get bone marrow injections; she told us that they were excruciating. It was hard for us to see her go through treatment or even imagine the pain and anguish she was experiencing. She was determined to get better and be there for her daughter’s wedding, healthy and hearty.

My aunt would faint and was restricted from driving. She found it difficult doing anything at home she enjoyed. Blisters formed in her mouth and she could hardly eat. Her body became very frail and to see someone like her, who was full of life before being diagnosed, was beyond painful to witness. My aunt had such beautiful hair prior to losing it from chemotherapy, but even after the loss of her beautiful locks, she never lost hope. She always told us that she will get better hair than us in the future and that we will become jealous of her beauty again. Her humor along with her family’s support helped her make it through these troubling times.
After a period of two years, she traveled to her daughter’s wedding in India and to everyone’s surprise she did all the wedding preparations herself. Today, it has been 10 years and she is in remission, cancer free! She has an implant for the mastectomy that she had but that does not hinder her in anything she does. Nothing can hinder her! She is very free spirited and is ready to take life by the horns once again. She fought very bravely to become cancer free and I admire the fortitude she possessed to not let this speed bump of life slow her down.

Breast cancer is tough, but if diagnosed at an earlier stage it can be treated. Please do a self examination and if you are of age to receive a mammogram please do. For your sake and for the sake of your loved ones. They need you. Today and always.

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