While October is filled of spooky haunts and delights, it is also a time of remembrance and honoring of our ancestors. Not only that it is Breast Cancer Awareness month, a topic that is both necessary and a more than a little frightening, but most of all a deeply personal one for me. I'm not usually one to jump on "cause bandwagons" emphatically, but this one I will. This entry is about me, it's about my Great Aunt, and its about all the women I connect with in day to day life, yeah, that means you too. Hell, its even about the men.
Me, Mom, and Aunt Joan
Taken back in 2002 at my high school graduation, my Great Aunt Joan (pronounced Jo Ann), the lovely lady on the right holding the paper, was hiding a terrible secret from the family. She looks so happy and she played the 'perfectly fine and normal' card our family seems ingrained to play, so well. Damn us Irelands and Richardsons we sure do hate to bother anyone or make anyone worry. I don't know exactly when she learned she had breast cancer, but it was before this.
Aunt Joan kept this secret until the cancer spread so deeply throughout her body, that her arm snapped while she was trying to open a jar of jam. She didn't even tell her sister, my Grandma Evelyn until that day. The apparent excuse was that she was scared, well no kidding!
As you can imagine it was pretty shocking, difficult, and hard news for our family and for me. I was 18 years old, it was summer, and I was soon to be going off to college an hour away from home. I was never one to believe that people were immortal or invincible, but if there was ever anyone who could do anything, it was Aunt Joan. She was amazing, talented, and a freaking genius. My Dad once called her a Renaissance woman. She'd worked in the Forest service in Estes Park, Colorado. She'd traveled, she'd moved home to help take care of Great Grandma Ireland. She was a teacher of college math and even taught herself calculus just from reading a text book. She was the only person to explain mathematical ratios to me in a way I could understand. She knew so much and was so fun to be around. More than that, she I don't remember her ever losing her patience with me as a kid even though I was wild and had ADHD. She was the only Aunt I ever had a positive, healthy, and good relationship with. I wanted to be just like her and still do in a lot of ways.
She kept teaching at Butler County Community College for a little while, until she couldn't. I got to come home and visit her a couple of times. The last time I saw her, it was devastating. Aunt Joan was so frail, so thin, and she was struggling to breathe. I wanted to talk to her but she was sleeping and one of her friends who was staying with her at the hospital promised to tell her that I had come to see her. Two days later, my Dad called me at school and told me she'd passed away. I did not handle this well, in fact.
We had her funeral, she was cremated. She has a headstone out in Toronto, Kansas next to Great Grandparents. Her ashes were later taken to Christi Meadows, Colorado where she had spread the ashes of her beloved dog, Rose, several years before.
Since her loss, I have had developed a horrible, hateful relationship with my breasts. I decided that there was no reason to get attached to something that would just betray me. I didn't want to feel anything for them and so I never really allowed romantic partner to touch them. I didn't even like touching them. I thought, why get attached when they are just going to rot and try to kill you? In fact, I decided that if there was ever any hint of cancer found, I would just have them removed asap.
Amanda likes my double d's and likes to touch them, its something I have had to get used to, to learn to like. But even now, I find myself scared to let myself enjoy them, to like them, to want to flaunt them, or to even care about them.
But this isn't good either. Its hard to get over or passed something like this. It is hard to deal with the fall out, the emotional upheaval and so on. It is hard to lose someone and be afraid for your Grandmas, your Mom, your Aunts, your cousins, and other member of your family and even your friends.
We walk along every day thinking that everything will go as usual, that nothing bad is going to happen, that we won't get sick, or we hope we won't get sick. No one wants to think about Cancer and all its painful ugliness. No one wants to think that they might become its prey or that that someone they love might. We try to ignore it. Well, we need to stop. We need to touch and check our boobies and get our mammograms. sure getting the mammies smashed isn't pleasant, but if you can catch it early, it certainly beast dying too soon. It beats leaving someone in your family utterly devastated.
So tell your friends and family, and yes, guys too because they can get it. Most importantly tell yourself. I'm asking you to do this because I don't want to see anyone else waste away and die from this.
For more information and guide check the National Breast Cancer site.