Breast Cancer Awareness: Coping Behind the Pink Ribbons

By Kayla Roofe

Editor’s note: October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It is estimated that 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. It’s a disease that affects our friends, sisters, co-workers and mothers. In this post, Kayla Roofe, Social Media Manager at RE/MAX LLC, shares her family’s experience.

When I think of home, I think of my mom. My fondest memories were made at the start of every football season, when my mom would make her “famous” chili and we would spend time around the TV cheering on our favorite teams. But then, on October 1, 2010 (the official beginning of Breast Cancer Awareness Month), my mom called me with the three-little words no one ever wants to hear, “I have cancer.”

Hearing Those Three Dreaded Words

Cancer. It felt like I got stabbed with a knife to the heart. It sounded like my life coming to a screeching halt. Being a sophomore in college at the time, the biggest worry I had up until then was not knowing if I was going to pass my midterm exam or not.

You Don’t Cry When You Think You Will

Of course, I cried when my mom told me of the diagnosis over the phone. But then there was nothing. I became immune to my feelings and instead focused on research. My mom was too frightened to Google any solutions to itchy skin or nausea, so I delved into the web. I visited forums and searched hashtags on Twitter before I eventually became so well-versed in the “cancer-lingo” that I always answered every “How is your mom doing?” question with “She’s doing great – except for the nausea!”

It wasn’t until I saw my mom after her double-mastectomy surgery – lying helpless on the hospital bed – that it hit me. She should be OK, right? It would be over in a year. Right? But it dawned on me that maybe it wouldn’t be. There was always a chance that the treatment wouldn’t work. Or that the cancer would have spread. I cried harder than I have in my entire life.

The Irony Behind the Awareness

I could do without the pink ribbons, the pancake fundraising breakfast or the marathon. Being a single mom with two kids, my mom’s battle with breast cancer changed all of our lives forever. When my mom was diagnosed during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, there was a line of people out the door to help. As soon as November 1 came around, we were left alone dealing with the struggles cancer would bring. We lost our childhood home because my mom couldn’t work during her treatment. My little brother dropped out of high school to help support the family. I failed that semester at college due to the amount of time I took off from school.

The damage cancer did to all of our lives is something that we will remember forever. Through it all, we realized that a home can be replaced, you can always go back and graduate from high school and a college semester can be retaken. What matters most is that my mom can proudly say she is a survivor – and she will always be the heart of my home.

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