breast cancer research and awareness

I recently met a mother of two who shared with me that she is undergoing chemotherapy.

We sat at the local pool under a tarp to protect us from the sun. I was trying to stave off sunburn, and she was trying to preserve her energy.

I knew we were going to get along when she described herself as “crotchety” and said she thought dance class was more about being pretty than learning how to dance. After that both of us got out of our chairs, introduced ourselves, and shook hands. We had bonded.

She wore a wide-brimmed hat and a cap covered the place where her hair had been. I don’t think she meant to tell me about the chemo.

“What kind of cancer?” I asked.

She pointed to her breast.

She had found the lump herself, caught the cancer in its early stages, has an 80 percent chance for survival. That’s all good. Still, I wonder why with all the research and all of the awareness that women continue to receive this diagnosis. I know about as much about breast cancer as any woman, mostly that I don’t want it in any of its stages. Isn’t there some way we can prevent it and not simply detect it?

I shared my theory that the cause has to be something we are doing to ourselves. She told me that 50 percent of people who get various cancers don’t have any of the genetic markers. She had heard a story on NPR about how there is little we can do to control our environment. That makes sense. We can’t control what’s in the air or what’s in the water. It does make me feel better that I can control what I put in and on my body.

I told her I gave up shampoo. She chuckled.

“You no-poo?”

“Yeah, I no-poo.”

She shared that she had nursed both of her children into toddlerhood. The nurses told her there was virtually no chance she would have cancer. I nursed as well, hoping it would give my girls a good start and possibly decrease the probability of getting breast cancer. Nursing was no guarantee; she could attest to that.

She told me her age and I winced. I told her mine and noted that she is just six years older than I am. Her youngest daughter is 10. They are both too young to be staring down this disease.

I reported I also gave up commercial deodorant.

“How in the world can people stand to be around you?” she wanted to know.

“I use the crystal. It took about a month for my body to adjust.”

She looked skeptical. If I didn’t smell well, Nadia, my youngest, would tell me, I assured her.  I also confided I keep deodorant wipes with me at all times. That last part seemed to give her a bit of relief.

She had heard of the crystal and confessed she hadn’t used much deodorant lately. She hadn’t smelled like much of anything since starting chemotherapy. There was that long word again.

We chatted a while longer. She needed to get home and I wanted to put my feet in the water. I bid her farewell. I wish we had exchanged numbers so that I could learn the outcome of all of her hard work. After all, we seemed to share some of the same interests. I also would like to thank her sharing her story with me.