Mother displays heroism in her breast cancer battle

Brady C. Mallory

Brady C. Mallory

Growing up, I never admired the same figures other little boys declared as their heroes. Baseball players, football stars and Superman did not impress me as much as the one who embodied what I thought of as heroism. As a 22-year-old man, my hero is still very much my mother. This summer, I met a stranger who reaffirmed why I hold this to be true.

The second day of my internship led me to the glass-paned oak door of a woman in her mid-thirties. She was warm, inviting, beautiful and had a light about her not many are able to boast about. Watching this spry, cheerful woman who was dressed in a bright blue blouse, black capris and high heels, it was easy to forget she had just been diagnosed with stage four breast cancer for the second time. Surrounded by rows and rows of photographs that captured family events of yesterday, picture days for her two young daughters or warm embraces from dear friends, this woman told me and a news camera her story. Her story was my story.

She had just had chemotherapy the day before and had mentioned she woke up and noticed her raven-black hair had already begun collecting on her pillow. She showed us her scrapbooking room, her husband’s “man cave” and various school projects from her daughters. Not once did she say her condition was an injustice. Instead, and gracefully so, she said, “You can choose to stay in bed every day, or you can choose to get out of bed and fight. I choose to fight.”

In October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we remember women like Becky because she is a cancer patient. To her children, she is Mom. Gloria Mallory was a cancer patient who survived breast cancer nine years ago. She is my mom. Becky was 30 when she was first diagnosed. My mom was 54. Becky has short black hair. My mom has long blonde hair. The point is: cancer knows no age, no height, no weight, no hair color, no race, no economic status. I never thought my mom would have breast cancer, and now, nine years later, I wake up every morning with the fear it could come back.

Breast cancer starts in the cells of the breast in women and men. Worldwide, breast cancer is the second most common type of cancer after lung cancer (10.4% of all cancer incidents, both sexes counted) and the fifth most common cause of cancer death. In 2009, approximately 40,170 women are expected to die of breast cancer in the United States, according to Today, this could just be a number. Tomorrow it could be your mother.

Celebrate October by scheduling a mammogram at the local hospital, because early detection is the best way to stop breast cancer while it is still in the early stages. Mammograms are quick, relatively low in cost, and though they may be slightly uncomfortable, they can find cancer that is the size of a small bead. Stage is the most important, as it takes into consideration size, local involvement, lymph node status and whether metastatic disease is present. The higher the stage at diagnosis, the worse the prognosis. Younger women tend to have a poorer prognosis than post-menopausal women due to several factors. Their breasts are active with their cycles, they may be nursing infants and they may be unaware of changes in their breasts. Therefore, younger women are usually at a more advanced stage when diagnosed.

Early detection is what saved my mother, who had stage-two breast cancer. She had a lumpectomy, five rounds of chemotherapy and radiation five days a week for about five months. I was able to go with her to nearly all of her radiation treatments. Had she not found the lump during a self-examination, which led to a mammogram, my story could have ended much differently. I still thank God daily for my mother’s health and how her disease was an awakening. Becky’s journey, my mom’s journey and every other journey in between are not lessons in death but are lessons in life. Author Rob Bell makes an astute observation when he says, “It is as if the smallest amount of light is infinitely more powerful than massive amounts of dark.”

If we can remember to schedule regular mammograms, encourage self-exams and spread awareness, not just in October, but every month, perhaps we can raise a generation who will never have to know what cancer is.

Visit for more info or schedule your mammogram by calling Brookings Avera Medical Clinic at 697-9500. To my mother and yours; to your daughter, sister, wife, girlfriend, grandmother, aunt, cousin, friend and neighbor, Happy Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

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