Did you know it’s national breast cancer awareness month?
I remember when I first became aware of breast cancer. It was in the mid-90s and a close family friend was diagnosed. I remember many aspects of her treatment … her tears, the journey towards recovery, and the fear I was left with. It seemed like everywhere I turned a family was being effected by that ugly word … cancer.
At the time, I was ten years old. Just entering puberty. With a wild imagination. Not to mention the fear and awareness of breast cancer. Add all those things together and you’ve got yourself a hysterically crying Gretchen.
One evening I was in the bath tub and realized my chest was sore. Like a bruised feeling. I’m pretty sure I felt some “lumps” too. I called for my mom and between uncontrollable sobs I choked out the words “breast cancer”. I’m sure she had to stifle some uncontrollable laughs as she assured me that, no, I did not have breast cancer, I was merely on the verge of getting my own breasts. Seeing that my mom is a kindergarten teacher and not a doctor I stood by the phone as she called our favorite advice nurse, Nurse Laurie. I listened as my mom explained the circumstances to Nurse Laurie and Nurse Laurie, who knew how to fix every illness I had ever encountered, reiterated that I need not fear. I did not have breast cancer.
Yes, you are free to laugh at one of our family’s favorite Gretchen tween stories. There are many more that I hope to begin chronicling here. You see, growing up one of our favorite pastimes was to hear my parents stories from “when you were little”. I’m sure Jemma and Max will enjoy those someday too and I’d like to not only tell them, but to have them written as well. Little bits of my biography for them to laugh at in the years to come.
Luckily, my two younger sisters didn’t endure the same breast cancer scare I did. My mom was sure to explain developing breasts months (if not years) before they ever felt those tiny buds. P.S. I wholeheartedly forgive my mom for missing this small detail in my growing up years. In almost every other case she was ahead of the game :) Still, I’ll forever remember that fear and am committed to helping my children be aware of issues our family, friends, and strangers might face. Not so they will be fearful, but so we can understand better and offer our aid and support.
Although Jemma is young, we included her in our girl’s luncheon – a Sleep Pink Party to help spread breast cancer awareness and raise much-needed funds for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer series, a project of the Avon Foundation for Women that supports finding a cure for breast cancer and advancing access to care for all.
For our meal, my sister Katie (one of the sisters who entered puberty without fearing she had breast cancer) picked up our favorite salads – Avocado Chicken Cobb and Fuji Apple Chicken from none other than the delectable Panera. We ate in peace during nap time and then Jemma, Katie, and I donned pink shirts and painted our nails pretty shades of pink. As our nails dried we snuggled on the couch to read some of Jem’s favorite pink-themed books. It was pinkalicious!
It’s not yet time to share the details of breast cancer with two year old Jemma. But, when it is, I’m confident that her aunts and I will properly educate her on healthy living, early detection, and ways we can support our fellow sisters who are fighting to overcome.
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