Breast Cancer Awareness and Remembering
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Ironically it was in October that my cousin and BFF, Martha, lost her decades long battle with breast cancer. This column is dedicated to her.
Martha and I were not only best friends we were also first cousins. Her family lived in Florida and mine in Kentucky but we were together every summer and Christmas vacation. There was no email back then so our communication consisted of letters and talking on the phone.
We shared our thoughts, hopes and dreams throughout our childhood and teen years. We were in each others weddings and our children were born around the same time. Even though our families and our jobs kept us busy we talked on the phone every week without fail. The day she called to say, ”I found a lump,” marked the beginning of her ride on the cancer rollercoaster. Treatment. Hope. Cancer. More Treatment. More Cancer.
If ever there was a Ninja Warrior of breast cancer fighters-it was Martha. Over the years she had a lumpectomy, mastectomy, and lost her hair 3 times because of chemo and radiation. When cancer invaded her brain my aunt and I drove to Florida to help so her husband could continue to work. My aunt did the cooking and cleaning while I drove Martha to radiation treatments. I would sit in the waiting room with her and watch as she passed out bookmarks with Bible verses on them and encouraged others to keep fighting. Her bald head never took away from her beauty and even the sickest patients responded to this big hearted cheerleader who held their hands, talked to them, prayed with them and never stopped smiling.
The last few months of Martha’s life felt like I was living in a sad movie that I wanted to run away from but couldn’t. Watching her suffer was made even more painful by the fact that she was so frustrated with her body’s betrayal. “I’m just so mad!” she would say. And I knew she meant she was angry because she couldn’t do all the things she was accustomed to doing.
It poured rain on the day of her funeral. There was a slide show of photos with music and as I watched the story of her life appear on the screen I realized I hadn’t just lost Martha, I had lost a large part of my childhood as well. There would be no more “remember whens” with my best friend.
A few months before Martha died we made a video together. We were on the way to her radiation treatment and I asked her what she would say to others going through tough times. Without skipping a beat she said, “For me it’s all about God and finding the peace that He gives us. No one is promised tomorrow and every day may not be good, but there is good in every day. Even on bad days there is something good. Find it and be thankful for that moment.”
That was Martha. Always looking for the good and never realizing how much of it lived inside her.
Miss you Martha. You are a part of me and will always be.