NPR launches a project examining discrimination in America.
A Mother-Daughter Diary Of Breast Cancer
A Scottsdale woman and her daughter are coping with a serious illness in their family. The mother has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Her family has a history of cancer, and now doctors are concerned that her teenage daughter has a good chance of getting cancer later in life. Olivia Parker is with KJZZ’s Spot 127 Youth Media Center, and she has prepared this diary about her mom’s battle against breast cancer.
"I am making a quilt out of this wonderful fabric that I tye-died. And some great silk that I found. It's going to be cool. It's going to be funky, but it's going to be cool."
That’s my mom Brande. She’s 38 and works in corporate PR. She’s a very creative person. She’s always been there for me. Sewing to her is fun, but also therapeutic.
"I can think, whenever I have something to think about, it helps if I’m sewing. So if I have a big decision to make or I’m upset about something. It kind of helps to come and sit down and work on a project."
She has a lot on her mind. She just found out last year she has breast cancer. She found a lump and immediately went to see a doctor.
My mom's not your conventional mother though. Get this: She made a bust of her bust out of plaster before her surgery. She said she did so she can “remember her boobs for what they were."
She makes me laugh everyday with her quirky way of seeing the world. I mean, how many moms are into quilting and old school hip-hop?
Her enthusiasm for life is contagious and I can always count on her for one of her stories to cheer me up. I cringe when she told me stories about awkward moments in the doctor’s office after something inappropriate she said.
"So I went to see the genetic specialist today and, um, you know I’ve been going to see so many doctors. Every time you go you go in, you sit down, you take off your shirt, you put on this little robe thing, they look at your rack, blah blah blah blah you know? And it’s the same thing over and over again. I’m not even embarrassed anymore. At first you’re really embarrassed but now I’m like whatever, you know?"
No, I really don’t know. It must be tough to go see so many doctors over and over again but my mom's always done it and stayed positive, because that is the kind of attitude she has.
"The first thing I did when I found out I had breast cancer was do tons of research. I researched what all the treatment options were, the latest studies, the latest of what they’re doing on surgery, reconstruction. And I got really lucky that Angelina Jolie just had a mastectomy and so I actually figured, well, if she had done the best thing cosmetically, I would like to have done maybe, I'll do just the same thing."
In fact, that’s what she did. She had a double mastectomy last October. But the implants were too big so she had to have another surgery to change them. And the weird thing is she was thinking about her nipples the entire time during the process. She wanted to keep them.
"There were no doctors around that would do it. In fact one physician said 'it looks better if we take your nipples and I recreate one.' And I was just thinking what? I’m sure he’s a great artist but I like my nipples, they’re just fine."
Finally, she decided to see a doctor in Tucson who agreed to keep her nipples.
"They’ve served me well my whole life, I think I’ll stick with the ones I’ve got. But anyway I wound up driving two hours to Tucson to get the surgery I wanted, but it has definitely been worth it."
My mom and I talk a lot in the car. It's when have some of our deepest conversations about breast cancer. Here's my mom explaining how much she worries about my future:
"I worry about dying right now, leaving you behind, missing out on all those things. I worry about you, and you having a long and healthy life. So we both just have to take care."
Honestly, I'm afraid. I mean, every single woman on my mom's side has been diagnosed with breast cancer. But my mom was only 38 when she found out she had it. How young will I be? How serious will the cancer be? Should I get the surgery to prevent the cancer from even appearing? It's really something that I never thought I'd have to think about until now.
Before the surgery my mom took a genetic test to see if its possible for me to have breast cancer, and it’s a 50/50 chance. I’m worried, I’m only 15. But I know that if I do get cancer I will try to be as strong, and positive as my mom has been throughout this process.
For her, the hard part is almost over. She has to go to a few more doctor and therapy appointments. For me, I just have to wait and see.