Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the campaign held every October globally to increase breast cancer awareness and raise funds for its cure, just ended. For most women, the fight to fight the disease never ends. Fear fuels it. Ask the girl in us.
To this date, I have been fortunate not to have breast cancer. And I have been equally blessed to love women who have faced the disease with the guts reserved for those who get the news firsthand empty handed.
I am not sure if I have a family history of breast cancer, but I definitely have a fear history of breast cancer. Full-blown. This is why I am here, to share my race away from breast cancer fear.
I met breast cancer in my childhood.
Growing up in my beloved Caracas, Venezuela, I most have eavesdrop the telephone conversations between my mother and the family best friend, our beloved Antonia Cotelo, nicknamed by all as Totó. She was diagnosed with a brain cancer that quickly metastasized into breast cancer in her 50s. During her arduous fight, my mother and her spoke daily about results, treatments, side effects – the ups, the downs, the all.
They did not know, but I heard it all.
My parents welcomed Totó in our home every weekend. From those memories, her beautiful musical voice asking for “las niñas” (the girls) still echoes in my heart, particularly because there was not a single moment where she let her sorrow show when my sister or I were around. Quite the contrary, she was the epitome of love in joy. Till the day she parted, she held her cancer sentence with the grace of a white swan. Her emotional intelligence in the midst of her devastating disease is to be revered.
My last memory of Totó is the face of an angel lost in time, as if searching her way – impeccably made up complexion framing eyes no longer symmetrical and frozen, wondering in limbo hoping to focus. All of it, within a head stylishly wrapped in a colorful scarf, honoring what was still a beautiful mind. That’s what cancer looked like to the girl in me.
Totó left us one rainy Sunday. Years passed by, my life went on, and my womanhood showed up. All of it with growing fears of breast cancer well into my 40s, intensified and out of proportion every time I had breast pain, mammograms, thermography, sonograms, biopsies, the many roads to breast health. I knew how to know but I did not want to know. Sounds familiar?
Then I took charge.
Sick of worrying sick, I saw a renowned specialist in cognitive therapy who nailed the source of my breast cancer fears and healed it with a resounding closing argument: “That’s not your story. That is not how you will go.”
So what’s a girl to do? Wrap up? Not a chance.
A girl helps the girls living in fear, the ones who are afraid to check, the ones who wished they had checked, the ones dying from not knowing, everyone and everybody, so that no woman is the story, so that no woman ever goes this way again.
I have propelled myself into the subject fearlessly forward because I know that the fight starts with the F word to face – Fear.
For starters, I now go to my yearly mammograms knowing that whatever technology and medicine find, we will do our best to cure, because I took preventive charge by checking on time.
And she runs for more.
Last October 14, 2017, I ran the 5K Susan G Komen’s Race for the Cure.
I raced against fear, convinced that what men, women, and girls don’t know is hurting us.
I sprinted for my girls – Kelly, Maria, all of you- we are one in all.
I flew on my angel – Totó guided me well.
We took off and became mean- freaking- cancer-fear-burning machines.
And we won the race.
Ladies and gentlemen hear me out – this is what breast cancer-aware women look like: