How breast cancer blindsided my family

Shock, confusion and anxiety attacked me all at once the moment I found out breast cancer was eating away at my grandmother’s well-being, let alone realizing that runs in my family after 21 years of being oblivious to the fact.

I always knew that breast cancer was deemed as one of the most common cancers in women, but the importance of checking oneself and taking it seriously was hardly ever brought up in conversations between my family and I prior to it suddenly affecting my Grandma Luz. No one knew cancer was taking over her body until her final weeks.

I was completely unaware that I would only have four months left with my grandma in Spring 2022. I witnessed the only grandmother I ever had growing up become more frail while experiencing much more unknown (at the time) pain all over her body.

She shortly became bedridden from what was presumably old age at the time. In a span of about four months, the whole family spent as much time with her as possible, but what everyone was unaware of were the true underlying reasons for the extreme pain and fragility she was beginning to experience more each day.

It was during the very last month of her life when we found out it was breast cancer circulating within her body after her doctor finally discovered a lump in her breast.

This life-changing information was presented so casually to my family, but it felt the opposite of casual when I found out. In that same moment I also became aware that that a few other women in my family, like my great aunts and other relatives, had also been taken from breast cancer.

That’s when my whole perspective suddenly flipped, as I felt utterly blindsided. I was devastated and angry that I was completely clueless about this for my entire life, that it could have possibly been prevented if we had known or even taken it more seriously.

It all made sense why my grandma suddenly became so ill and engulfed in pain, but what didn’t make sense was why we were all unaware for so long.

On June 22, only a few weeks after finding this out, she passed away.

The moment I discovered it runs in my family, I had never taken the possibility of this illness more seriously. Being 21, I hardly ever conjured an anxious thought about having to worry about breast cancer, but my ignorance was shattered in the blink of an eye.

No matter what age, it is never too soon to begin considering the seriousness of breast cancer, if not already.

According to the American Cancer Society in Cancer Screening Guidelines by Age, “Screening tests are used to find cancer in people who have no symptoms. Regular screening gives you the best chance of finding cancer early when it’s small and before it has spread.”

In the 21-29 age group, if one is at potentially higher risk than average, it’s best to talk to a health care provider about when to start getting mammograms or other screening tests.

It’s important to take such issues seriously now rather than later. Long Beach State provides access to breast cancer exams, offered at the Student Health Services Department. These exams are available for free throughout the year.

It’s unfortunate how life-changing circumstances have to happen in order to start taking one’s own health more seriously, but I realized that is how things unfold in life sometimes.

However, I’ll forever cherish the time I got to spend with my grandmother and will now continue going through life with the utmost awareness for breast cancer in honor of her.

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