Chicago Sun-Times
Discussions across the racial divide

Breast cancer battle is just beginning

| 8 Comments | No TrackBacks

BY MARY MITCHELL

More than 500 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with breast cancer every day.

On March 13, I was one of them.

It was as if someone had strapped me into the cab of a roller coaster.

Each new test jerked me up a monstrous incline; each new piece of information flung me into an abyss.

And still I consider myself blessed.

I have the support of family and friends who believe in the power of prayer.

I have medical insurance and understanding employers.

And I have a team of compassionate, well-trained doctors.

On February 10, during a routine physical, my longtime family doctor, Dr. James P. Baraglia, felt a lump.

It just so happened I was scheduled to take a mammogram that same day.

Twenty-eight days later, after a follow-up ultrasound and a biopsy, I got the diagnosis over the phone.

"You have a cancer," the radiologist told me.

His words were paralyzing. I spent days weeping and praying before I had the strength to even begin researching my disease.

The work of Susan Love of the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation was a good place to start. She is considered a breast cancer guru, and sees breast cancer as a "very common disease."

While it is news when a 30- or 40-something celebrity battles breast cancer, 77 percent of the cases occur in women older than 50, Love points out.

In fact, the average age for a breast cancer diagnosis is 61 years old. I will be 60 next month.

So on top of all the other age-related afflictions women can look forward to, there's a good chance we will get some form of breast cancer in our lifetime.

Yet for the most part, breast cancer gets the silent treatment among black women.

I cannot justify being quiet.

Because of the silence -- coupled with the limited access most low-income women have to quality healthcare -- cancer is often discovered in African-American women at late stages.

Because I usually get annual mammograms, my disease was discovered at a relatively early stage.

Still, the doctors described what I have -- ductal carcinoma in situ as well as infiltrating breast cancer -- as a "sneaky" and "wild" form of breast cancer.

Unfortunately, that is not unusual.

Black women, regardless of age or body weight, have a threefold greater risk of developing a particularly aggressive type of breast cancer compared with non-black women, Boston-based researchers reported recently, according to Reuters Health.

Without an aggressive plan to increase the availability of mammograms and other early detection screening to low-income women, the poor prognosis for black women with breast cancer drives the perception that it is a death sentence.
It is not.

Over the past 30 days, I have been embraced by black women who have survived the disease because of early detection.

Now I've been drafted into a war where tens of thousands perish every year, partly because of a lack of knowledge.

I can't hide.

After reading this, if just one woman gets a long overdue mammogram, I will be encouraged.

If just one woman stops ignoring the lump in her breast, I will be strengthened.

If just one more woman joins the fight for better breast cancer screening, I will be empowered.

As one radiologist pointed out, the medical community has done a great job raising breast cancer awareness.

Now it must get the word out that treatment does save lives.

Medical professionals must also address the struggle some women have with self-image -- a struggle so fierce that some would rather sacrifice their lives than go through radical surgery.

More women need to know that there are options available, including reconstructive surgery -- which is why expanding health care coverage is critical.

But please, don't tell me that my breasts have served their purpose.

It has nothing to do with vanity.

When breast cancer victims have to give up their breasts to save their lives, they are entitled to their grief.

We are mourning the loss of a part of ourselves.

On Friday, I begin my personal battle with breast cancer.

I am thankful to all of you who have helped me cope over the past two months.

And I'm thankful to God for giving me hope.

No TrackBacks

TrackBack URL: http://blogs.suntimes.com/cgi-bin/mt-tb.cgi/21646

8 Comments

Mary,
It was heart warming to read your comments on your journey with Breast Cancer. I myself am a Breast Cancer survivor of almost 10 years. I have started a Breast Cancer Support Group with the help of three other Breast Cancer Survivors. The thoughts, trials and tribulations you went through are the same as most of the women in my Breast Cancer Support Group. It is amazing how we all seem to have the same feelings about this disease. When our group started it was only about four to six women at each meeting. We now have about 30 women on our roster and have at least a 50% turn out at each meeting. What the women like most is when we have a Naturopathic Doctor come and talk to us about natural medicine we can take to help with some of the side effects of the treatment we must go thru to overcome this battle. Hearing each others battle gives us encouragement and hope for a brighter future. This also helps prepare us with intelligent questions for our Oncologist visits. Like you most of us had done no research on this disease prior to being diagnosed. When I was dianosed on October 31, 2000 the satistics of women being diagnosed with Breast Cancer was one in every four. Now, it is one in eight. This is due to more women being diagnosed with Breast Cancer early enough to get the treatment early enough to become cancer free. I am glad you have shared your Journey with the world. Being a Black woman myself I know how important it is for women of color to come forward to let others know that this is not a disease to be ashamed of but a disease that deserves everything we have to fight it with to keep it under control. If more women like you go public with their journey with Breast Cancer, I am sure each of you will be responsible for saving millions of lives of women of color as well as other women. You and all women like us are in my prayers always. God answers prayers but he can only answer if we ask. Many of us also need to know that God is the person responsible for Doctors being here to help us throug this ordeal. I am not writing this to see if it gets published, I just wanted you to know how proud I am of you for sharing your story and I am sure it will save many womens lives. So many women give up when they are diagnosed and some refuse to own their Cancer and it defeats them. God Bless you and what you are doing to try to help

Mary,
It was heart warming to read your comments on your journey with Breast Cancer. I myself am a Breast Cancer survivor of almost 10 years. I have started a Breast Cancer Support Group with the help of three other Breast Cancer Survivors. The thoughts, trials and tribulations you went through are the same as most of the women in my Breast Cancer Support Group. It is amazing how we all seem to have the same feelings about this disease. When our group started it was only about four to six women at each meeting. We now have about 30 women on our roster and have at least a 50% turn out at each meeting. What the women like most is when we have a Naturopathic Doctor come and talk to us about natural medicine we can take to help with some of the side effects of the treatment we must go thru to overcome this battle. Hearing each others battle gives us encouragement and hope for a brighter future. This also helps prepare us with intelligent questions for our Oncologist visits. Like you most of us had done no research on this disease prior to being diagnosed. When I was dianosed on October 31, 2000 the satistics of women being diagnosed with Breast Cancer was one in every four. Now, it is one in eight. This is due to more women being diagnosed with Breast Cancer early enough to get the treatment early enough to become cancer free. I am glad you have shared your Journey with the world. Being a Black woman myself I know how important it is for women of color to come forward to let others know that this is not a disease to be ashamed of but a disease that deserves everything we have to fight it with to keep it under control. If more women like you go public with their journey with Breast Cancer, I am sure each of you will be responsible for saving millions of lives of women of color as well as other women. You and all women like us are in my prayers always. God answers prayers but he can only answer if we ask. Many of us also need to know that God is the person responsible for Doctors being here to help us throug this ordeal. I am not writing this to see if it gets published, I just wanted you to know how proud I am of you for sharing your story and I am sure it will save many womens lives. So many women give up when they are diagnosed and some refuse to own their Cancer and it defeats them. God Bless you and what you are doing to try to help

I just wanted to wish you the best in your battle with breast cancer.

Just sending you good thoughts.


Deb Daliege

Just saw you on "Rachel". I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers. I hope you are through treatments. As a survivor (9 years) I hope a very speedy and full recovery for you. Keep up your very good work. Jana Tompkins

Well its not like you havent tried to start race wars............

"Rage killed Derrion Albert," wrote Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell. "It is the same rage that once led angry mobs of whites to lynch innocent blacks as law-abiding citizens watched. The same rage that once erupted into riots that drove young black men to burn and loot white-owned businesses, as residents hid in their locked homes."

I'm glad you have cancer you racist!
Whats the matter did the paper not let you write about how white man give you cancer too?

Please contact me in reference to a talk show
directed to gang members.

I think we need to know why they think and do the things that are happening in order to
help ourselves deal with them better.

Thank you for reading.

i am currently under medicaid under the njceed program for breast cancer. its a WONDERFUL program. now since im disabled medicare is threatening me of discontinuing my monthly income if i dont take their services. i was made to take medicare-a now automatically put me on medicare-d. im currently unable to recieve any medical treatments or prescriptions...i have a history for anxiety and this problem has done wonders for my health-not!! i have been fighting to stay on this program since ive been permantly disabled.im 53 not 65! is there any solution to this problem? id appreciate any info or help you may have on this situation. thanks...sincerely alyce young

Mary, I saw you on the news last night talking about the parks in chicago on the south side of chicago please if you could do a story about how the white ivesters buying property in our neighborhoods and how they are not maintaining those properties I have a lot next door that has a huge dangerous tree that has over the last five years been falling apart it has destroyed by property, mashed my nephews car, damaged my roof and the people that has the powers to enforce the maintaining of these properties continued to do nothing I have reached out to the alderman. the city clerk office and the state senate and still bo results please let me know if this can be brouught to the media this tree is tearing up my property.

Sincerely
Elaine Strong
773-886-3609

Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Admin published on April 13, 2009 7:00 PM.

Monkeys, watermelons and black people was the previous entry in this blog.

'My cancer is gone' is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.