Monday, September 21, 2009

The Big C

This is a story, a public service announcement, and a prayer request- all rolled into one. It's about my friend, my past, my present, my future, and your future. It's about breast cancer at age 27.

I found out last month that my high school friend was having surgery to remove a tumor from her breast. Although the word lump was used in the place of tumor. Then came the news that it was a tumor and a very aggressive form of cancer. Courtney is 27. Exactly two weeks younger than me. 27.
A few weeks ago I got an email from one of our good friends, telling me that she was having a surprise reunion party of the old gang for Courtney. She had seen her bucket list, and one of things on it was to have all the girls get together for a night. The girls- or the Fabulous Five- as they called us our freshman year of high school. We all grew up together in the same neighborhood, played flashlight tag on summer nights, swam on the swim team, and boy watched at the mall. We not only grew up together- we grew up together - becoming the basis for who we are today. 27.

Us, back in the day!

All of us at dinner on Saturday. (I know, I have beautiful friends.)

Saturday night we all had dinner together. It was the first time some of them had met Spencer since being in my tummy. Even though everything was different, it was still the same. Conversation flowed, stories retold, old times remembered, laughs aplenty. I felt 17 again. Until Courtney told us she was shaving her head next week. 27.

Me and Courtney

Because of the aggressive nature of her type of cancer, she'll be receiving both radiation and chemotherapy. Because of the aggressive nature of her cancer she'll be receiving many alternating types of the most potent variants of chemotherapy. All of her hair will fall out. Courtney has beautiful hair. She recently cut it shorter in preparation of the upcoming day, but it was always very long, cascading down her back , thick and lovely. 27.

Dinner was over all too soon, and for the rest of us, we were able to return to our normal lives. Courtney doesn't get to return to her normal life as a labor and delivery nurse, she returns to fighting for her life. The next time she walks into the hospital where she's worked for years, she'll be a patient. She won't be coaching the mothers as they push out their babies- she'll be the one who needs the encouragement as she sits for hours, hooked up to an IV of chemo. 27.

When I think of breast cancer I think of my Mema; she was a breast cancer survivor. But she was 65 when that diagnosis came. When I think of breast cancer I think of being old, or at least much older than I am now. Insurance doesn't even cover routine mammogram screenings until you're at least 35, and that's the minimum. I rarely do self breast examinations- I'm too young to really be worried about that. Except I'm not. It never occurred to me that I could possibly be at risk for breast cancer at this point in my life. I'm only 27. Courtney is only 27.

If there's anything that I could impart to you right now, it would be for you to engage in some breast self-love! I have never been so intimately involved with mine as I've been this last month. And one of the benefits of frequent self-examination is that you will be able to detect any changes. You won't assume that something has always been there- you'll know that it hasn't. Here's a link to a guide to help you. And here. Finally, I'm asking you to pray for my friend. Not just that she'll be a survivor, but also for her spirit- breast cancer is a very depressing thing and fighting it can be soul crushing. If you're reading this then you're old enough to start frequent and routine self-examinations. 27.
Some Other Good Links:

Susan G. Komen for the Cure
National Breast Cancer Foundation
Mayo Clinic Breast Cancer Symptoms
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Theta Mom said...

Your post brings light to the reality that this disease can strike any one of us at anytime, regardless of how young we are. I hope your dear firend pulls through. Thanks for sharing.

ItsKelly said...

This is such an important post. I'm sure you will save many lives with your words.

27 is just too young. My thoughts and prayers are with Courtney.

Melissa said...

I am so sorry, for you, for Courtney. That is heart wrenching. I'm 26 and you never think it happens at this age. Like you said its always 'older'. I will definitly keep her in my prayers and you as you both will struggle. It would be hard to watch your friend face that trial. Keep us posted. Love, Melissa

Kristina said...

I'm so sorry for you and for Courtney, 27 is entirely too young, I'm 28. My dad is 53 and fighting a very aggressive form of Multiple Myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow....I still think he's too young. I will be adding you and Courtney, your strength and your faith to my prayer list. THe power of prayer is amazing! Keep us posted!

KK said...

I'm so sorry, I will be praying for her.

The Kramer Angle said...

Courtney is in my prayers!

Thanks for the powerful post!

John & Michelle said...

Young Courtney will be in my prayers. I'm nearly 40 and don't do self exams either. I know you said it's aggressive, but I'm believing in a miracle for her!
(((HUGS))) Michelle

Kari @ p.s. said...

This was good to post. A situation that isn't easy to deal with on any end. The hair thing is always big too. My grandma underwent 6 rounds of chemo in 03-04 for lymphoma cancer and when she started losing her hair and I went and got a pixie hair cut. I had hair below my shoulder blades, but I wanted to do something to show my support when she lost her hair and had to get a wig. Wonderful to know that today she is cancer free and has her own hair again :o)
I'm sure you brought to attention a matter that too many women ignore.

Kate in Austin said...

Great post

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