Let’s keep up fight and kick cancer’s butt

Published 6:21 pm Saturday, October 21, 2017

My mother was 78 years old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

She died a year later, almost exactly, at age 79.

I was stunned, as I think she was, when she was diagnosed. At that age, I thought the threat of breast cancer had passed. I was wrong.

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Mama wasn’t one to keep up with her annual physicals or mammograms, so who knows how long that little lump had been cooking inside her. She was prompted to go get it checked out, she said, when she noticed her breast was itching like crazy.

I had never heard of that as a symptom of breast cancer, but for her, it was.

After the lump was removed and biopsied, her Natchez doctors wanted her to immediately have a mastectomy. She was having none of it.

Mama went to Baton Rouge for a second opinion, which turned out to be much the same as what the Natchez doctors advised. So, she went for a third opinion, then a fourth, until she found a doctor who said what she wanted to hear: “Let’s wait and see.”

That was music to my mother’s ears. She was a wait-and-see kind of woman. All of my life, Mama hated being forced to make any plan or decision until it suited her. She enjoyed brooding. She was a stubborn woman and liked things her way. I guess we all do, but for her it was an art form.

In the end, waiting and seeing killed her.

Mama’s cancer quickly metastasized. A malignant polyp was found in her colon. A little bit later, she fell and broke her wrist. While in the emergency room after that injury, she complained about being confused. They did a scan of her head, thinking she may have hit it when she fell. That scan showed a brain lesion.

She did have one radiation treatment on that lesion, but that was it.

The saddest thing was, a week before her last doctor’s visit, when she was told the cancer had spread to her liver and bones, one of my siblings talked to her about hospice.

“I am not ready for hospice. Hospice is for those people who have given up. I haven’t given up,” she said. Finally, Mama was ready to fight.

A week later, she was dead.

Cancer was the one thing in her life she couldn’t intimidate into adjusting its schedule to hers.

Breast cancer is a brutal disease and, thankfully, I haven’t had much experience with it. I don’t know of anyone else in my immediate family who has had breast cancer.

At about the time Mama was diagnosed with cancer, I interviewed Hugh Green for a story in the 2015 Pink Edition of The Vicksburg Post.

He so generously and beautifully shared the story of his wife, Joe Ann Blades Green, who unlike my mother, waged a mighty war against breast cancer. Because of her decision to fight her cancer, the Greens enjoyed years together they would not otherwise have gotten.

Still, in the end, the cancer won.

I look forward to the day — and I’m confident it’s coming — where cancer doesn’t win. If we all keep up the good fight, I don’t think we’ll have to wait all that long.

Jan Griffey is general manager of The Vicksburg Post. You may reach her at jan.griffey@vicksburgpost.com.