This week, we’re sharing why IT’S PERSONAL for Megan Rudy. Read her story, and tell us why It’s Personal for you!
I think Breast Cancer is personal for everyone now-a-days. As I stride into my 30’s I’d find myself hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t been effected themselves in someway; whether a mammogram scare, a family member, friend or co-worker who survived or didn’t.
My story seems to leave people wishing they didn’t ask so I often don’t tell the whole story.
When I was seven my mom was diagnosed with Breast Cancer; she was 45. I initially grew up living an “alternative lifestyle”, when I was born we didn’t have electricity or running water. My dad ran a co-op and my mom raised me in a home my parents built in rural upstate New York. My dad used to brag I never had an ear infection as a child as I was weaned on goat’s milk, brewers yeast and black strap molasses. Once I had kids myself I realized the reason I never had an ear infection is because I probably never went to the doctor. Early detection was not on my mom’s radar. She had previously had breast cysts and assumed the one on her left breast was a cyst as well. It wasn’t. It grew and festered until it burst through her skin resulting in what looked like to my seven year old eyes a raw and oozy puss filled volcano coming out of her upper breast. She changed bandages daily and went for radiation treatment. By this time we had moved to the nearby city of Rochester, NY where I went to school, my parents separated and my mom sought treatment locally and abroad.
Before my mom’s last trip to the Bahamas for treatment I remember screaming and crying for her not to go on this trip. Something bad was going to happen. I was certain and I was right. My mom came home in a wheel chair after contracting pneumonia and was bed ridden for the remainder of the winter. My mom chose to do at home hospice and we were truly blessed that our closest family friends and neighbors provided most of her care. I never had to sit in the nauseating stench of hospital rooms and be told to be quiet. My friends and I played while their moms cared for her and wondered what would become of me, a girl without a mother.
Friday April 7th, the day before my 9th Birthday my mom passed away at home. Sunday April 9th I had my 9th birthday party at our neighbors. That was the least painful celebration. I didn’t know at the time that losing your mom at such a young age meant you were embarrassed to tell your dad when you got your period for the first time. You went first time bra shopping alone while your dad explained the situation to the nice lady at the mall and then sat outside, coming in only to pay. I went prom dress shopping with a friend and a credit card. I went bridal dress shopping by myself. My mom missed the birth of her first grandchild and her second. I missed asking her, “How did you do this with no electricity or running water? What were you thinking?”
But losing my mom at such a young age was also a blessing. It made me, me. You have to be strong. You have to figure out how to do it on your own. You have to know what to say to your friend whose breast cancer has returned and now she is dying in the hospital with her 10 year old daughter playing in the waiting room. I suggested she write letters to her daughter for each of her major life milestones. Her daughter would then have a letter to open on her prom night, her wedding night and then birth of her first child. I would have really liked to have that.
When I started dating my husband he said, “We’ve got to get you snowboarding”. So we did. He taught me and I fell in love with the whole experience; our time driving to the mountains together, being outside and the thrill of riding down a mountain together. I love knowing it’s a mountain day so french fries and hot chocolate totally count as lunch. I really love that all the girls I know who ride totally support each other and no one rags on anyone because they are last down or bit it off a rail. When I first heard about a B4BC event at our local mountain, I was so proud. Here were two things dear to my heart all rolled up into one great package. As B4BC grew, so did a close friend’s involvement in the organization. Of course I was happy to write a short piece about why it’s personal to me.
It became even more personal last year when the hospital called back after a mammogram screening caught something and asked me to come in for a biopsy follow up. “Really?” I thought, “Already?” I was expecting follow up appointments later in life but not at 30. The biopsy came back normal but I have more frequent screenings now. One of my favorite things about B4BC is their emphasis on early detection. Breast cancer effects women of all ages and all women should know how their breasts feel and what is normal. Could early detection have saved my mom’s life? I don’t know, but I do know it’s personal to me and I am proud to support B4BC.