Dear Grandma Viola,
We never met. I am the oldest daughter of your youngest daughter. You passed away only a few years before I was born. My mother watched you be diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 51, go through a barbaric mastectomy, which was the best they could do at the time I suppose. I understand that you passed away at 58, partly due to your fear of cancer and doctors and by the time you sought treatment it was too late. I’m sorry for your pain and your early departure. Mom told me years later that having seen you suffer with cancer at the age of 15, that she was so terrified of her breasts to the point that she begged her own doctor to remove hers. At that time, prophylactic mastectomies were unheard of. In hindsight, I understand that fear.
Great Grandma, Grandma, now me.
I don’t wish to follow the same path as my fore-mothers.
I will not let fear rule my outcome. I will be a warrior and wear our family crest upon my scars.
I am a 21st century woman with options of improved diagnosis and care for breast cancer survivors. The science that is available now is staggering and I am sure will be beyond our imaginings 50 years from now.
Angelina Jolie and countless other women who have had to make the difficult choice for a prophylactic mastectomy suffer much criticism and heat. I am here to say that unless you have sincerely walked that path, unless you have seen someone you love be ravished by cancer, you must refrain from making judgement about this very intense and personal decision. Trust me that this is not a fickle decision, like what kind of hair cut to get…
In my case, the surgery is not prophylactic, but a genuine action against the cancer growing in my breast. I will not let fear rule my outcome. I will meet this head on.