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Surviving, but Still Haunted

I have four sisters. I had five until 1980, when I lost a sister to breast cancer. It was so hard to believe that she lost her life. She was only 32 years old. She had a mastectomy and we all thought she would be OK. When the doctors told her that she only had so many months to live, she and her husband kept it from all of us. She went through the treatments, including chemotherapy and radiation, and we all feel that that is what killed her faster than the breast cancer. She had three children: a 3-year-old, a 9-year-old and a 13-year-old.

We all got through losing our sister. Then in 1984 my oldest sister got breast cancer, so she got a mastectomy too, but she refused to take any treatments. She is still doing fine.

I lost my mother to cancer. It was not in her breast, but in her bladder and it spread. She died in 1984. It seemed that when she found out she had cancer, it wasn’t long before she died. It was hard seeing her in the hospital suffering with cancer.

I have two brothers. The oldest one had prostate cancer. Though he went through some rough times, he is healthy and doing fine today. He had cancer before Mom died. In fact Daddy had cancer, too, before my sister had cancer. He had a cancerous tumor in his intestines, but they took care of him, and he was doing well until we lost our sister and mother.

I had my right breast removed in 1987, so I was the third sister that had breast cancer. At first I couldn’t believe it. I thought I was going to die like my sister, Peggy. But then again, Elaine lived through it, so I pulled myself together and got over the fear of dying with breast cancer. My husband was a big help and kept me going. He gave me a lot of support.

I didn’t tell my father that I had cancer because it might upset him too much. I had my mastectomy on April 1. What an April Fools’ joke. I didn’t want to tell my father, but after two months I did tell him; he took it pretty well. He just wanted to know if I was OK. Of course I told him I was, and I was. But deep down I hated it. Yes, I was still living, but I hated to look at myself in the mirror; I didn’t even want my husband to see me. To this day I still hate it, even though I’m a survivor.

In 1993 I had my left breast removed. Another mastectomy. The doctor wanted me to take radiation treatments, but I refused them. I then decided to have breast reconstruction done, I just couldn’t put up with putting prostheses in and out of my bra, so I decided to have the reconstruction. It is a lot better. One of them just doesn’t look right, but I put up with it. I mean, after all, I’m still here. I am a survivor.

To this day, and every day, I’m reminded of breast cancer. And all you hear about is someone has breast cancer, so many women are going through it now. I don’t think they will find a cure for it. My family has been through a lot. In 1987 our father just gave up and shot himself in the chest with his rifle. He left us a note saying he loved all of us children, and that he missed Mommy. He said he knew he had cancer again and wasn’t going back into the hospital. He signed it “Love, Daddy.”

It hurt so much for our father to kill himself, and I had a hard time getting over that. It has been 12 years since he committed suicide. The rest of us are very close. We live close by, so we all keep in touch and see each other a lot.

Well I don’t know what else to say. I have never written anything about my experience and breast cancer, but I thought I would give it a try. I just wanted to share my experience. Cancer has been all through my family. Those who haven’t had cancer are afraid they might get it, too. It’s always on our minds.

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