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My Mom, the Breast Cancer Survivor

My Mom, the Breast Cancer Survivor

It was the last day of August when my sister and I were driving home from a weekend in the mountains and we got a call from my mom to let us know that they’d found something suspicious during a routine mammogram. September was a whirlwind of tests, which confirmed our worst fears. By the time October rolled around, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month seemed like a cruel joke.

The good news is, after a year of grueling treatments that included a couple of lumpectomies, a mastectomy, chemo and radiation, my mom’s cancer is gone and she’s still here. She’s minus one breast and a little worse for wear after everything she’s been through. She lost her hair, but it grew back. The cancer did not. And that’s what I’d like the moral of this story to be.

I could talk about how scary it has been, especially for that one week when they thought it had spread and that treatment couldn’t save her. I could tell you all about the myriad of things I have learned about what kinds of things are thought to cause breast cancer (parabens, for one) and what prevents it. I could share my own fears about getting breast cancer, or even worse, my sister getting it. (Worse because she has a 4-year-old son, and also because I can’t imagine being on this planet without her.)

One in eight women will get breast cancer. That’s a hell of a statistic. In my family, of the ones with breasts at least, so far it’s been two out of six. My grandma had it too, about 30 years ago, but survived the cancer and lived well into her 80s. Who knows whether the other four of us will get it too. There’s a pretty good chance we might, but if any of us do, I know there’s a really good chance it won’t kill us.

Women survive breast cancer all the time. It’s not a death sentence. The point of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is to make sure women get checked (self-exam, mammogram, digital thermography, whatever you please), because one thing is certain: You can’t treat breast cancer if you don’t know you have it.

Unfortunately, a lot of women do die of it. But with early detection, treatment and lots of support it can be beat. I know because I saw it happen to my mom, a woman whose strength of character and generous heart exceeded my every expectation this year. She is a survivor and you can be too.

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Jana Ballinger

Jana Ballinger has more than 15 years of experience as a writer and copy editor for daily newspapers. She lives in a vintage house in Northern California with her husband and an orange cat.


+ add your own
7:26AM PDT on Apr 12, 2013


5:37AM PST on Mar 4, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

1:45AM PST on Feb 2, 2013


1:44AM PST on Feb 2, 2013


4:25PM PDT on May 6, 2012


12:15AM PDT on Apr 17, 2012

Thank you for the article

2:31AM PST on Nov 22, 2011

Thankyou for this encouraging story.

5:35PM PDT on Jun 20, 2011

I am a breast cancer survivor myself,4 and a half yrs after my op and i have a lot to be thankful for to my family who supported me through many bad days and always had a smile for me,to the doctors and nurses and the wee tea lady who always had a smile going round the hospital wards,the cleaners who cleaned my room in the hospital,always ready for a chat in the morning,everyone was so kind and helpful,it is only when you are knocking on deaths door do you really know the kindness of people,i appreciate every single person in my life

5:02AM PST on Nov 24, 2010

Good for her! Not everyone is as lucky. Many of us have lost a loved one to breast cancer.

3:59PM PDT on Oct 24, 2010

Hi Jana, I'm glad I ran across your info on your mom, and how she survived breast cancer. I am 72 years old, and I'm a 12 year survivor, so I was 60 when I first came in contact with it. Mine was NOT genetic, as was your mother's. My dad had 17 siblings, (yea, 17 ) and my mom had 5, all of whom died at a ripe old age, none from cancer. I really think it was the harmone replacement therapy that did it. I'm sure my children, (5) had undergone all the fears that you had, and so did my husband. And may I say, yes, I lost all my hair too, even my eye lashes and eye brows, but that was a small price to pay for my life !!! I try to participate in the Relay for Life every year, however its getting a little harder, you know what they say about 'the old grey mare'. However, I am an avid gardener, we do the computer, photography, write poetry (would love to get published), love family gatherings, play pool in our rec room, so you see we have a nice active life. I would like you to encourage your mother to stay active, which she probably is, but let her know that there are a lot of people in her corner, its just some people don't get on the blogs. I can't imagine having missed everything that has happened in my family in the passed 12 years. My heart goes out to you dear, and all of other victums that may be reading this. This IS , after all, breast cancer awareness month, God Bless you all !!!!

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