I am not a health nut. I am not a nutritionist. I am not a doctor. I am a daughter. My mother has breast cancer. Heavy, right? It only feels that way sometimes. And for as many times as you hear about someone with breast cancer, there are that many more sons and daughters trying to come to terms with reality that their mom is sick with cancer. But that’s not really why I’m here. As I’ve watched my amazingly strong mother march through eight rounds of chemo, and a double mastectomy around the corner, I’ve realized that her battle is a very different one from most women with breast cancer.
Most women with breast cancer – scratch that – most people in the world aren’t all that aware of their bodies and their health. The stuff we consume and apply to our bodies, the chemicals hidden in every manufactured, baked, carefully packaged item are too many to name. The fundamental health issues we all argue about, the problem with school lunch systems, and the crap we find walking down the grocery aisle, that all stems from awareness. We ingest and expel product after product, without ever really knowing what’s happening.
It has taken me this long to realize that the reason my mom isn’t fighting the same fight is because of her self-awareness. She has learned everything there is to know about breast cancer and the different things that have helped her battle chemo. The reason she was able to do all of that was because she had set a precedent for understanding her body and her health in a way that incremental changes to her diet, exercise, vitamin intake, etc. actually improved her ability to be self-aware. Ever since I was little my mom has lectured my siblings and I on the nutritional value of different foods, all the while helping us understand more and more about ourselves.
My mom told me a story the other day about a woman in the mammography exam waiting room who, after chatting with my mother for a while, explained how helpless and uninformed she felt going through chemo (it had been a year since she started, whereas my mom had only been in chemo for 16 weeks). My mom’s reaction when telling me the story was that she felt bad for this other woman, that she didn’t realize how big the information gap was.
This left me with a much clearer sense of why I didn’t feel constantly distraught and worried about my mom going through chemo – because she truly wasn’t fighting the same fight. She is, and will continue to be, one of the most health-informed women out there. This brings me back to the root of the issue, awareness and health education are crucial – not only in cancer patients, but in regular healthy people. If children in school today knew an ounce about what they are putting in their bodies, the children of tomorrow would be a hell of a lot better off.