Personal breast cancer struggles

By Kerry English
October 30, 2008

Shannon Keough

At the age of two, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. I don’t remember much.

Most of my memories from my mother’s surgery and treatment stemmed from home movies and pictures. It was explained mommy was sick, but she was going to be just fine. And she was for 17 years.

Time went by after the treatment was completed and everything was looking

good. My mom was healthy, felt like herself again, and had maintained a very close relationship with her breast doctor.

Then the unthinkable

happened. After 17 healthy years, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time. Learning this two weeks prior to my first day at Cabrini knocked the wind out of me.

My mother underwent surgery and treatment again. With tremendous personal strength and the support from everyone around her, she beat cancer for the second time.

It was my sophomore year in high school when I had my first surgery. One day in the shower I noticed a difference in my breast. There was a small lump that felt like an acorn. It was strange to me, something

I’d never felt before.

My mom called her doctor later that day and got me an appointment. I couldn’t help but notice the looks I received upon walking

into the waiting room. Everyone else waiting to be seen was in their 40s or 50s, and here I walked in as a 15-year-old girl.

After being examined, the doctor decided I was going to need surgery to remove the lump. Initially

I didn’t know what to think. All I can remember is trying to hold back my tears until I got in the car.

The next few days went by so fast. I went from my doctor’s office to blood work to tests to surgery in what felt like a minute. Before I knew it, it was the morning of my surgery and I was on my way to Philadelphia.

I arrived at Jefferson University Hospital early that morning having no idea what was to be expected.

All that mattered to me was Dr. Anne Rosenberg, the same doctor that had done my mom’s surgery, was going to be performing

mine. Having my family

by my side and knowing

I was in good hands put me at ease.

Over the course of the next three years, I had three more surgeries done on both breasts. After a while, it all became routine

and the diagnosis was always the same.

Missing school was always

the most frustrating. Rarely would I have time to prepare for my absence and would have to spend a few weeks playing catch-up. None of that mattered, however, as soon as I received

the phone call from the lab saying the lumps were benign.

Since being at Cabrini I have had one surgery to bring me to a total of five. This last one was the toughest; it was my first surgery where lumps had to be removed from both breasts at the same time.

Because of my mother’s condition, I knew it was important to start monitoring

myself early.

Women in college need to realize the importance of breast health. Checking

yourself monthly is an easy way to detect any irregularities. I’ve always been a firm believer that you know your body better than anyone else.

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Kerry English

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