By Cati Diamond Stone
Each breast cancer survivor story is different. For me, sharing perspectives helps heal. More important, it brings hope that survivors’ stories will inspire others to take action to prevent breast cancer.
My daughter “L” was 16 months old when the news arrived: Stage 3 breast cancer. For L, my diagnosis meant “Grandparentpalooza” at home during 18 months of treatment.
For me, it meant figuring out how to be a mom, wife, career girl and cancer patient all at once — an array of competing interests. But the most important thing (or so it seemed at the time) was for L to never learn of the illness.
Innocence only lasts so long, and it didn’t seem right to give my toddler a dose of reality while so young, so I faked it. When my hair fell out from chemo, I told her I wanted to try out a new haircut. When picking her up to play became impossible during weakening months of treatment, I feigned preference to spread toys on the floor. When L saw me wince as clothing irritated my radiation-burned skin, laughing it off was the norm.
For a while, it seemed the ruse worked. But the low point came while attending a children’s theater event when an usher told her it was “so nice that her daddy brought her to the show,” not surprising given my peach fuzz haircut and pale skin.
That was a wake-up call. In trying to make L feel like nothing was wrong, I was only kidding myself. I was sick, and everyone knew it but me.
Now four, my daughter asks me health questions, and we talk about the answers. She sees my scars and traces them with her fingers. She knows cancer made me very sick, and she knows my health is better now.
I can answer all of her questions except one: Will she have to go through the same experience? I cannot fake an answer. The only option is to tell her of my work alongside many others who are fighting to find a cure for this disease, and that we will never give up until we do.
For now, that is good enough for her.
At Komen Atlanta, our mission is to enable women in this community to detect and survive breast cancer. This month, we’re asking supporters to raise awareness and funds to help continue our work as Atlanta’s resource for the medically under-served who need breast cancer screening, diagnostic and support services.
There are three ways to help.
First, raise awareness by joining the virtual “Pink Out.” Simply change a Facebook profile picture to a pink ribbon for a few days, then invite friends to do the same.
The second option is to donate. Just $10 can cover the cost of a screening, which is how many receive early detection. It’s easy: Text “PINK” to 501501 to make a $10 donation. All donations up to $150,000 will be matched by Kroger. About 75 percent of raised funds remain in Atlanta to provide treatment and support services.
Finally, get involved by attending Breast Cancer Awareness Month activities. With events like the upcoming 2013 Worship In Pink at more than 200 local religious institutions Oct. 25-27, anyone may help make a difference. For more information, go to: http://komenatlanta.org/.
Cati Diamond Stone is executive director of Komen Atlanta.