Thursday, July 17, 2014

Taking It In Stride, Too Young, Too Soon

One of the realities of being me is that I grew up under the shadow of cancer. My mother's mother died of uterine cancer when she was only 16, my mother died of ovarian cancer when my baby sister was only 16. My father's sisters, his mother, my mother all died too young, too soon, painfully and yes, from cancer.

I remember signing on with the American Cancer Society door to door drives when I was barely old enough to leave my yard. I recall collecting dimes, dollars, whatever my kind neighbors would give. I recall putting it in an envelope and sending it on its way. I had no idea what that money was used for, or even where it really went. I just knew it might be the thing that would keep my mom and dad from crying. I recall laying next to my grandmother as her health was failing. I was six.

I have grown up in fear. I became as some would say, mildly paranoid. The idea of leaving my children behind without me was more than I could bare. I could not accept the idea that my children would feel the pain I felt when I buried my mother, too young, too soon. My doctor realized my fear. He sat me down when I was about 28 and said, Mary, worrying about developing cancer, will not keep it from happening. But, we can be proactive and if we come to that bridge we will cross it. I listened and I became as proactive as I could be. Now this is not to say that those I love in my lifetime didn't care, or were not proactive. I just means that being as aware of the genetic connection as possible is wise. It is like having a high occurrence of diabetes or heart disease.

I became involved a few years back with the American Cancer Society, this time as a grown woman.My partner Steve and I held a "Making Strides" awareness raiser. A concert where many of my friends came together and we celebrated life with music. We wrote a song titled, "Strides." I wrote for all women and those who love them. Little did I know that within just a couple years I would discover that a cousin was a breast cancer survivor, our first born niece would be a sarcoma survivor and that two of my sisters would be diagnosed with cancer. Too young, too soon.

Here are videos that capture the song and the speech I made for a "Making Strides" kick-off event. The "Strides" video is reflecting my sister Marissa. Please read the article that was so generously written by The Kankakee Daily Journal.

Please consider helping me help my sister.

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