As told to me by Jasmine Berry
Breast Cancer Awareness is why I want to share my story. I mean everyone knows someone who has had breast cancer. In elementary school, my best friend’s mother had it, my God Mother has had it, my Aunt died in 2004 from it, my cousin died in 2011 from it, and my own mother is a Breast Cancer survivor. The best way to fight for the cure is to continue to tirelessly raise awareness. It’s natural for me to do this because I have shared the journey with three different family members, all at different times in my life.
When I was a young child, four or so, my mother, Bonita Berry was diagnosed in 1992, right after she had her second child. She felt a lump in her breast and had a mammogram. They informed her it was just a cyst and it wasn’t a big deal. Then she kept complaining of the pain and they removed it and later informed her it was, in fact, a malignant tumor. She went through chemo and radiation during her diagnosis, and killed off all of the cells. After going through chemotherapy, the doctors removed the lump, and performed the radiation treatment. I had just turned 4 and didn’t remember much from my mother’s experience, more so the stories I’ve been told growing up. As a daughter, I’m grateful that I don’t remember my mother’s experience because I am unsure how I would have reacted witnessing my mother go through so much pain. She was 37 when she was first diagnosed. Thankfully, she didn’t battle long with it, only for about a year, and it’s been in remission ever since.
Pictured: Left: Aunt Karen Right: Mom Bonita
My aunt, Karen Askew, was diagnosed with breast cancer back in 1995 and it spread into her bones. She battled with the disease for quite sometime and was 55 when she lost the battle in 2004. It was a surprise when we found out she was dying because time had really slipped away. My aunt was in an unhealthy relationship with her husband and he isolated her from her closest family and friends. She lived in Decatur, GA, not too far from our hometown, but she seemed so far away because of her husband. With him being so controlling, you would think that one would want his or her family there if you know you’re about to die, but she didn’t think of it that way thanks to his mental and emotional abuse towards her. Our family is resentful of him because she was my aunt, my family member. It hurt not being able to say goodbye.
I lost my cousin, Nicole Smith, to breast cancer just last year in 2011 at the tender age of 39. It was just sad because she was so young. A mother of 3 of her own kids, and one stepchild and her diagnosis was the point when it had finally sat in that it was real and very prevalent in my family. Since I am a registered nurse, my family often calls on me for medical advice because of my medical background. It was a challenge for me because I couldn’t be family member, but instead a trusted friend who knows about the medicine. I had to stay strong for Nicole, and she was very strong herself at the end. Although she was probably in so much pain, she never complained. A year after her death, her children are doing ok. The oldest is a teenager; she gets away with more things and its kind of bittersweet. The middle child is a female and the youngest is her only boy and he has made comments; he’d say that he doesn’t have a mom, but he hasn’t fully grasped what death is. They all miss her. I felt for my younger cousins because I knew they would have to grow up without their mother. Yet I was looking at it from a medical standpoint. I was trying to save face but it was hard for me to hold on to hope. She was suffering so much; I really wanted her to rest peacefully.
Pictured: Left: my Mother, Bonita Right: Cousin, Nicole
I know it’s a cliché because we hear the same advice all the time, but it’s the best advice I have too. Know your body. Perform self-breast exams every month and get mammograms as early as you possible can. You can’t really stop yourself from getting it. There are plenty of people who exercise regularly, eat healthy, and do everything right and still get cancer. The best thing to do is to catch it early. Quality of life is the most cherished aspect of life. One’s ability to enjoy their time with family and friends is what makes life worth living. Breast cancer is real. But raising awareness is the first step to finding a cure.
This is my story. Jasmine A. Berry, RN, BSN is a Registered Nurse at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Atlanta, GA.