It’s difficult to find someone who has not been affected by breast cancer in some way. It may be a family member, a friend, or a friend of a friend – but it often seems that almost everyone has been touched by this disease. I am one of those people.

The chemo, the radiation, the hospital stays, and finally, the morphine haze — are seared in my memory as if they happened only moments ago.

Next month it will be ten years since my mother died of metastasized breast cancer at age 53. It’s hard to wrap my head around the fact that it’s been that long. It seems like yesterday. The chemo, the radiation, the hospital stays, and finally, the morphine haze — are seared in my memory as if they happened only moments ago.

Now you’re asking yourself, “How is this story a story of survival?”

My mother may have lost her battle with the disease, but her legacy lives on. It lives on in me; it lives on in my two younger sisters, my older brother, and my father. We “survived” the disease.

Surviving for my family has meant something different for each of us. For me, it’s making sure I don’t forget what mom’s voice sounded like, how she looked when she smiled, and how she managed to raise four kids, work three jobs AND go to graduate school.

Surviving breast cancer isn’t just about beating it; it’s about how the people who've lost a loved one manage to move on. Surviving for my family has meant something different for each of us. For me, it’s making sure I don’t forget what mom’s voice sounded like, how she looked when she smiled, and how she managed to raise four kids, work three jobs AND go to graduate school. It’s also about never forgetting what the disease did to such a vibrant person and doing my very best to make sure my friends and family never forget.

My hope is that never forgetting will translate into each of them being more careful and conscious of their own health. That it will mean they will do everything they can to protect themselves and push their own circle of female family and friends to be more aware.

Being a nurse, my mother had the knowledge and the tools to detect her breast cancer much earlier than she did, maybe in time to have a different outcome. So, what happened? It’s hard to know exactly, but we’ve all got that “it won’t happen to me” mentality about things that we can’t imagine. With so many women affected each year — none of us should have that thought.

Each death should bring us one step closer to a time when breast cancer won’t be something to survive, but something treatable.

Each death should teach us the importance of yearly doctor’s visits, self-exams, and mammograms after 40. Each death should bring us one step closer to a time when breast cancer won’t be something to survive, but something treatable. Each death should remind us that we must find a cure — for our sisters, our daughters, our granddaughters.

Will I ever know a world where not everyone I meet has been touched by breast cancer? I honestly don’t know. But, I think it’s worth a shot. I think that trying is the best way we can honor my mother and all the other women who’ve lost their lives to the disease. It’s the best way to make sure we are all survivors.

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