AND THEN AGAIN….by Tamara Pettit

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  In the ten years since we founded the paper I’ve always written about my experience with breast cancer,  October is almost over and Shannon is waiting for the column. She feels a real social responsibility about these things

“You have to write it,” she says.  “People want to read a personal perspective about the experience. It might cause someone to get a mammogram and save their life.”

But cancer is too real to me now.  A ten- year survivor of my own cancer,, I know first hand the devastation it can wreak.  It’s only been 10 months since I watched it’s steady march on my husband’s body until it won.  Writing about cancer right now is like picking open a raw wound.

But, Shannon is right.  You need to know.  You need to know that awareness and action can save your life.  I was always diligent about my mammogram,  but a car wreck that resulted in a broken neck; four months in a hard collar; and the realization that I could have been paralyzed lulled me into a false sense of security.  Hurtling over a 250 ft drop only a mile from home I thought in my last moment of consciousness “I’m going to die.”   Well, I didn’t and having faced death, I thought the odds were in my favor.   After that ordeal what God would allow me to have breast cancer,

I was on the Board of Director of Change, Inc, then, so when October rolled around I didn’t want to be a hippocrit..

That, and I was pretty cavalier about the results cause God only gives you so much to handle.    I was pretty calm through the call back, ultra sound and my hackles didn’t raise until the biopsy when the doctor said we’d get the results and get a plan.   I knew right then that you didn’t need a plan if everything was clear.

Betty Rollins wrote a book on her experience with breast cancer, many years ago, It was the first time someone had addressed the subject full-on and it was called “First you Cry.” I am not a crier. I don’t like to appear weak and people have enough on their plate without seeing me get snot nosed and weepy.

But that’s what I did.  The radiologist didn’t say cancer.  He talked about cells dividing and gone awry.  Shannon was with me and it took a few minutes for me to absorb. If I had any advice for doctors it would be “say cancer.” Not saying the word doesn’t make it any less so.

I had early stage cancer that had not spread.   A lumpectomy and radiation was the plan.  I also learned that the hormones I had taken after having a hysterectomy at age 30 were the cause.

Suddenly, the table turned and daughter turns into mother as Shannon asked all the questions and I just sit there sobbing.  Again, my life passed before me just as when my car became airborne.

The breast surgeon exuded hope.  I nicknamed the patient navigator the angel of death because the moment I saw her come to take me badk to the radiologist I knew.   She didn’t appreciate my humor, but I think that it goes without saying that humor is an essential element as you go through treatment, I was fortunate to be a candidate for mamosite radiation which meant two radiation treatments twice a day in Pittsburgh rather than six weeks.

One thing, I do know about cancer.  When you are in the throws of treatment, you are actively involved in fighting it.   And, when the treatment is pver you think you should feel good, but you don’t.    You’re not doing anything anymore and you become consumed with it coming back.

Well, it’s been ten years.  All I have to show is a scar and a divet in my breast where the tumor used to reside.   Oh, and this newspaper.   Afte surviving two life changing events I figured God was keeping me around for some reason and since the idea of me being a missionary was inconceivable, I decided to pursue starting a newspaper,

For ten years we’ve overcome many hurdles and we’re not even in the same form as we were in 2003, but neither am I. But we’re here and we’re prospering,  Because we faced our fear and went forward.

I know getting a mammogram is scary.  All the pink ribbons in the world won’t make that fear go away.  But I’m here to tell you that instead of fearing the unknown, its better to face your fear and plan for what you do know if need be,

So, get your Mammogram.  You’ll feel better.  I’ll feel better if one person takes action because of my column. I’ll have made difference.  And, that’s what I set out to do when I was given two second chances.