Breast Cancer Awareness Month – should Young Latinas be concerned?

Where do I start!? It has been SO long since I have blogged. Too long honestly. If you are a writer, truly a writer, you need to write. Just as much as you need to eat and breathe. My writing is how I think. It’s how I feel things. How I know how to respond, or what to do next (yes I love lists too). But now here I am. It’s so good to be back. So I have a couple of pieces that I’ve been working on at home, for the past few weeks. And those I will post soon once they are complete. But now, this is just strictly a piece from the heart. To clear the cobwebs in my mind so to speak. I could just cry right now I feel so free.

There has been so much that has happened in my life over the past year. So much. I fasted for 40 days during Lent. Abstained from food completely during the day. And I made it through! I decided to inspire one of my dearest friends who was battling advanced breast cancer by signing up for the 3 Day Breast Cancer Walk that is happening October 16, 17, and 18th in Philadelphia, PA. I signed up for it in January, began fundraising in February, and in May my friend, Melody Charen, she died. She was only 32 years old. She had been diagnosed with Advanced Breast Cancer at the young age of 25.  She didn’t fit the profile of a woman with Breast Cancer, after all she was young and Latina, she had a young son at the time.  But what’s in a profile anyhow?  Can one hold up the “profile” for someone with Breast Cancer as a “Get out of Jail Free” pass when one is diagnosed? No.
Today, after almost 8 years of fighting for her life to the last moments, after all of her struggles, Melody finally is at peace. When I signed up for the 3 Day, I did it to inspire her. I needed to do something. Because I saw how much she was going through I needed to do something. Melody was always the kind of person that never let you know how bad it really was. She always saw the silver lining in the clouds of gloom that were ahead. She took one day at a time and appreciated each day for what it was.

Melody and I had been friends since grade school, all through high school, but when she got sick we started talking a lot less. She distanced herself because she didn’t want people to pity her. She never wanted anyone’s sympathy. She wanted to be seen as normal above all.

I went to her son’s 9th birthday celebration the summer of 2007. I was pregnant then and it’s funny because I still remember this as if it were yesterday. And anyone who knows me knows that if I don’t write something down, write about it, my memories float away like dried up fall leaves on a strong autum wind.  I remember talking to her about the pregnancy and telling her that I was so worried because I didn’t have someone to watch the baby for me when I went back to work. I remember Melody sitting and watching and listening to me as I talked and after a minute, she suggested her own mother. I would never have thought of her, but afterwards her mother and I talked and everything just fell into place.

So when I went back to work her mother did watch Carina, my baby, for me. It was so great. I thought having the baby there was such a positive infusion for them in their lives at a time that was so difficult. I thought that the love that they felt for my daughter would somehow help Melody and her family. At the time, Melody was actively fighting the cancer that had returned to other parts of her body. But never once did she complain. Never once did she say, “why me?” The past couple of years, we became so much closer. Melody became Carina’s “Titi” (Spanish for Auntie) and Melody’s mother, Elsie became “Mom-Mom”. And we became more than friends, we became family, through this bond of love that we all shared for my daughter.  And love her they did.  They all doted on Carina as the newest member of the family.  Carina would at times confuse me and Elsie and call her “Mom” and me “Mom” as well.  But I was never jealous, I always felt blessed that my daughter had so many people in her life that loved her so much. 

After Melody passed, I was deeply shaken.  Although all of the signs were there and I was preparing myself for it, her death shook me to the core.  The 3 Day gave me something positive to turn and focus my energy on.  And now as the time gets closer for the walk, it’s about a week away now, I know she’s going to be with me every step along the way. I know she’s going to walk those 60 miles with me. And I’m not going to give up. I’m not going to quit, because even though she’s not here with us anymore. I still want to inspire her. I miss her so much to this day.

So I’ve taken that love for her and turned it into an advocacy of sorts for Breast Cancer Prevention. I want everyone to know that you don’t have to be older to get breast cancer. And young Latinas, we get breast cancer too. So take a moment, do your own self breast exams and if you feel something wrong, get to the doctor. If he tells you it is nothing, go to another doctor. But don’t stop until you are satisfied that everything is really okay.

So over the next 1 ½ weeks, I’ll continue to prepare for the walk. Sleeping bags, rain gear, you name it, I have to think about it and probably pack it. And for a city girl like me, who’s never been camping a night in her life, this is no small task. But I’m going to do it. I’m not going to complain once and I’m never going to ask “why me?”. Melody never did, why should I?  I’m just going to thank God that I can do the walk and keep on walking until the 60 miles are done and I’ll listen to see if i hear Melody cheering for us.

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