This is the last week in this month of October. Therefore, it is the last week of breast cancer awareness month. If you’ve been following my blog, I’ve provided statistics and vital information for breast cancer. You learned how to detect it and things that could possibly help to reduce the chances of getting it. One week, I had the pleasure of interviewing my seven siblings and gave their perspective along with mine on how it was as a child to witness a parent go through the breast cancer process. For this last week, I wanted to dedicate it to my mother. My mom is a 15 year survivor of breast cancer. There was no better person than her to interview to end this breast cancer series.
My mother’s name is Zell Long. She is one that admired by many, and I count it a blessing for her to be to be the one God gave me as a mother. She has eight living children (miscarried one). If you know my mother, you know she is a woman of faith. She is a woman that can get a pray through to God. One my fraternal uncles jokingly calls her Jesus’s sister. He said if you ever need to get in touch with God all you have to do is call Zell. My siblings and I often joke about when we were sick growing up. Where as most kids get sick and miss school, it didn’t happen that way for you. Not JB and Homerzell’s kids!!!! If one of us woke up not feeling well, we’d go into our parents room and let them know. Of course, we’d hope that we’d be able to miss school and stay at Muh’s house for the entire day. No such luck!!!! Our mother would have us to get her bottle of prayer oil. She’d lay her hands on our heads and ask God to heal us. Within a matter of minutes, God would touch bodies, our sickness would be gone, and we’d be getting dressed for school. Such a bummer for kids that wanted to miss. It was a blessing for her. This same faith, her prayer, and her strength in God is what helped mom as she battled breast cancer.
My mother was born January 9, 1952. My mother is the baby of eighteen children. There were nine girls and nine boys born from Marsie and Gillie Jones. Out of the nine girls, three at the time had been diagnosed with breast cancer. (As of 2020, the last five girls born of Marsie and Gillie were diagnosed with breast cancer. One of my aunts succumbed to breast cancer in April of this year.) Considering her family’s history, my mom was always faithful in getting her yearly mammograms. I asked her did she ever think she would have breast cancer. She said it was always a possibility in the back of her mind that she might later end up getting it. The reason being was this. When she had mammograms, she would often have to go back because there would be an abnormality or irregularity on the mammogram. She’d have to go back to get a second mammogram. With all the irregular mammograms, the actual time of hearing the news of you have breast cancer wasn’t a surprise. Of course, it was not something she wanted, but the potential of having it was always there.
It was not a monthly self breast examination on how my mom discovered, but it was through the mammogram that the breast cancer was discovered. My mom could not remember the exact month she was diagnosed. She said it was somewhere between October-December 2005. This is why it is very important for women to get their annual mammogram and do the monthly breast self examinations. At the age of 40, doctors suggest this to be the age for women to start having yearly mammograms http://www.cancer.org. If you have a family history of breast cancer, you should speak to your doctor. You might be eligible to have one sooner. My first mammogram was at the age of 35 (due to my family’s history).
After the mammogram, mom’s faith kicked in. She said she told God that she has to believe Him. The mammogram and biopsy were showing different things. She said the mammogram showed the thickening in the one spot. Remember for her, this was not unusual, but biopsy showed positive for cancer and malignant. The decision had to be made to have the mastectomy (having the cancerous breast removed). She was fine having the mastectomy because it meant that the cancer would be removed from her body.
Going from it being a possibility to actually having breast cancer, mom had several thoughts running through her mind. What is going to happen next? Would it be a death sentence? Would this be the way my life ends, from cancer? God, I’m believing You for a miracle, but are You going to heal me on earth? If I die, what is going to happen to my children? If I have the mastectomy, what would my spouse at the time think of me because I’ll only have one breast?
Radiation or chemotherapy was never an option for her. The only option was having the mastectomy to remove the cancer. Mom did not have reconstructive breast surgery (to replace the breast that was removed). I have always wondered why she didn’t. She laughed, and she said she would never forget it. She said Dr. Buddy Williams said, “Zell, I can’t perform a reconstruction surgery. Your breast are too large, and I can’t make it the same size as the other.” I inquired and asked why didn’t she go smaller. Mom said it was not worth it. She said that it would require plastic surgery, and she did not want to endure having to go through surgery again. With the mastectomy, it was enough. She was very thankful the cancer did not spread by going into her glands and lymph nodes. Therefore, she was not worried about reconstruction. Instead, she would focus on her recovery by emptying the drainage tubes, enduring the pain, and allowing her body to heal. All of it was an indication of her body getting better.
I asked mom what were her thoughts after reading last week’s article from the view of her eight children while she went through her healing. Mom stated that she wasn’t aware how each of us felt, and it was an eye opener for her. She didn’t realize how it affected all eight of us differently. She personally told the oldest three (Juan, myself, and Jason) and thought that by our reactions that it would be easier to tell the younger ones. She allowed our father to tell the other five younger siblings. She wishes that she sat down with each us individually or gathered all eight of us at once to talk about it.
Lastly, I asked mom what advice would she give to a woman or man that might be dealing with breast cancer at this very moment. She said that having breast cancer changed her perspective on life. It made her realize her vulnerability. Here are her suggestions to the ones that might be dealing with it today. 1. Live life to the fullest every day. 2. Don’t have any regrets. Do what you want to do. 3. Don’t live a life of I wish I woulda, coulda, or shoulda because when you are dealing with cancer, there is no certainty. 4. Take it day by day. Some days, you’ll feel good. Some days, you won’t. Put your foot in front of the other. 5. Lastly, Have faith and pray.