Breast cancer survivor shares hope, refuge
Published: Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 23, 2012 01:10
Almost everyone is affected by breast cancer, whether it be a mother, grandmother, family friend or role model. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which gives survivors and supporters a time to reflect on their experiences with breast cancer.
Marian Kenney, mother of Miami University senior Molly Kenney, shared her story of survival. Kenney was diagnosed and treated this past summer and said her experience with breast cancer has changed the way she looks at the world. As a mother of two girls, she was determined to beat breast cancer so she could see [her daughters] get married and have children.
“She is the ideal mom,” Molly said. “She literally lives for my sister and I… but luckily this summer she decided to take care of herself and get a mammogram screening along with her regular physical.”
Molly said she had to put her life on hold while her mother was recovering from the mastectomy. “We didn’t have much time to plan – it was mostly reactionary right after the diagnosis,” she said.
Molly explained how her family divided up the work of helping to care for her mom.
“My sister, Emily, managed all of my mom’s pain pills, coordinated meals with the neighbors, and called all of our family and friends with news and updates,” Molly said. “I slept on the floor the rest of the summer, giving my mom her medications every five hours, helping her shower, and get dressed each day, and changed her bandages and drains from surgery.”
Kenney said she finds refuge in an organization called “The Gathering Place” in Cleveland, which provides support groups, cooking classes, children’s activities, a wig shop and more – all free for those affected in some way by cancer.
“When you tell someone you have [breast cancer], everyone can relate because someone they know has gone through it,” Kenney said. “It’s like a sisterhood.”
Kenney said that because of the fundraising, research and community efforts, breast cancer is no longer a death sentence.
“My mom’s a fighter,” Molly said. “When we talked about the cancer, death was never an option.”
Kenney urges women to keep up with their yearly mammograms – the earlier you catch breast cancer, the better your odds are at beating it.
“Life isn’t going to stop,” Marian Kenney said. “Every day is a fresh, new day. Live your day entirely.”
Miami senior Christin Anson, president of Colleges for Cancer, was motivated by her father’s passing to become an advocate for cancer research and awareness. She said the organization and the people in it have truly changed her life.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer that women may face in their lifetime, with the exception of skin cancer, according to Anson. Anson said that one of the biggest reasons women should know this is because the best defense against breast cancer is early detection.
Breast cancer can occur at any age, but is much more likely after age 40 and the risk increases as you get older. Because of certain factors, some women may have a greater chance of having breast cancer than others, according to Anson.
The American Cancer Society offers free programs and services for those affected by cancer, Anson said. The Society is located in nearly every community to help people facing breast cancer focus on getting well. According to Anson, whether women need help understanding their disease, making treatment decisions, dealing with day to day challenges of living with cancer or finding emotional support, the American Cancer Society is there to help.
Each month, Colleges Against Cancer picks a week to spotlight a different cancer and educate the campus about how to prevent cancer. During the week of Oct. 22, the group will paint the campus pink with ribbons and banners. According to Anson, they will also have educational sheet banners with breast cancer facts and their membership will be around campus on different days to promote survivorship, cancer education and advocacy. The group will also have an advocacy day with petitions that people can sign to make sure all women have access to mammograms.
The week is also Relay for Life’s Paint the Campus Purple week, Anson said.
Molly has been involved with Relay for Life and Susan G. Komen for over ten years.
“It’s ok to ask for help and to feel vulnerable,” Kenney said. “I felt like I had to keep up at my internship, take care of my mom and go back to Miami pretending like everything was perfect – when in reality, my family had just experienced the nightmare of cancer.”
But Molly said her family is lucky.
“We dodged a bullet and I can’t even begin to say how fortunate we are to still have [my mom] in our lives.”
Molly said her advice is to appreciate women close to you.
“I hope that more women on campus will learn from my mom’s story,” she said. “Appreciate your moms a little bit more. Look out for each other’s health and wellbeing.”