I am writing to you as a heartbroken granddaughter.
After a short and brave battle with breast cancer, I had to say goodbye to my grandmother. Her death wasn’t unexpected; but I don’t think you can ever emotionally prepare to lose someone you love, especially to cancer. And cancer had a formidable opponent. My 84-year-old grandmother had no intentions of letting it dictate how she would depart this Earth. As my brother put it, “Cancer is going to win this fight, but Grandma will get to heaven and say, ‘You should see the other guy.’”
Her diagnosis came in February of this year, and she was damned determined to fight and had an army of doctors, nurses, and family at her side. But it was too late. She had triple-negative breast cancer that had metastasized to her lungs. Given her age, chemotherapy and surgery would have just extended her pain. There was nothing we could do to save her life. In her final days, she was gone before her body completely shut down. My grandmother would always call me on my birthday, and knowing that I won’t get that call in August is paralyzing, to be honest.
My grandmother deserved more, and she wanted to die on her terms. If you knew my grandmother, she was a stubborn, spicy meatball who was fiercely protective of her family. When I was eight, I had a man in a van follow me while I was walking home from school. When he pulled up next to me to get out of his van, I took off running. My grandmother was waiting when I got home. Through my tears, I told her what had happened. My superhero grandmother went looking for the person and the van. She never found him, and it was probably a good thing that she didn’t.
The type of cancer that she had was one of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer. She would be the first known maternal history of breast cancer in our family. My grandmother was always in impeccable health, so we were all stunned about the diagnosis and just how fast her cancer had spread. Following her diagnosis, I consulted with my physician who immediately sent me in for a baseline mammogram. Thankfully my insurance company was onboard and covered the screening even though I am not quite 40. Nothing suspicious was found, though we did discover I have fibroglandular density. This could elevate my cancer risk. I will be monitored closely by my physician moving forward.
You don’t need me to educate you on statistics when it comes to breast cancer. I find that statistics mean nothing unless you have personally been touched by an illness such as cancer. Instead, I have a plea to all grandmothers, mothers, daughters, aunts, sisters, cousins, and friends. Please get your mammogram.
While I was nervous at first, I learned that the screening is not that bad. In fact, the screening took less time than it takes to get a dental cleaning. And it should be covered by most insurance companies at 100%. If you don’t have insurance, there are resources available to help you get a mammogram at little to no cost.
We all owe it to the generations before and after us to get screened for breast cancer. If you are nervous about going to a medical facility because of COVID, call your doctor to discuss your options. Please help honor my grandmother’s memory by getting screened. I am lost without her and the emotional pain is something I would never want you or someone you love to experience. The current recommendation is for women of her age to be screened every other year. She did everything right. But cancer doesn’t care, and we must fight to stop it.
A broken-hearted granddaughter