It’s been 40 years since my mom died of breast cancer

mommy.jpg It was a warm Sunday afternoon in 1972 as mom and I were taking a siesta by the porch. I still remember that fateful day when mom anxiously took my hand so I could feel the lump in her left breast. I felt the soft mass but I had no inkling that it was cancer then. Cancer does not happen to us. It’s an illness we just hear from other families like my next door neighbor who survived it anyway. I quickly erased the negative thoughts from my mind. Mom got operated that same week and it wasn’t good news. Her left breast had to be removed including part of her armpits where cancer cells invaded her lymph nodes.

Physical Therapy, radiation, chemotherapy, hair loss, a dozen wigs, remission, a relapse, a trip to New York to visit Betty Ford’s doctor, a visit to Lourdes, France for miracle water, black chickens for sacrifice, aphasia ensued for the next 3 years. Despite all the measures, mom died on July 25, 1976 at the age of 45 years old. I was on my third year of college in UP Diliman and together with my siblings, Lorna and Oscar, we took the plane to Cebu. I peered down the runway as the raindrops splashed the glass window as if in unison with the tears that fell down my cheeks. I was sad that my mom was probably dying and even sadder at the thought that my dad would suffer the pain of losing a wife. I wasn’t particularly close to my mother. Years of verbal and even physical abuse brought that awkward distance between us. Yes, it’s sad I didn’t feel maternal love from her. And vice-versa.

During the wake, we were told by the family doctor never to take birth control pills as it could trigger breast cancer cells. I forgot the reason behind this now.

Years later, I became a mother myself. A friend was dying of breast cancer. A worried Butch implored that I take a breast exam to rule out any breast cancer which could be in our genes. I was only 39 years old and I thought maybe I should take that mammogram before I hit 40 years old at about the time mom discovered the lump.

I took that painful mammogram test where the machine squashes your breast as it takes an x-ray. The results were not good. I quickly called David, my brother who was then a neurology resident at some medical school in the Philippines (the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH) ).
There was some hazy mass showing up on my left breast which was not palpable. It’s the same spot where mom had the lump. David strongly advised me to have immediate surgery to have it checked if it was benign or not. My brother said that breast cancer cells can be so aggressive and can quickly replicate in a few weeks. Shocked at two doctors’ medical opinion, I told myself that I cannot die now. Not when my kids are still so young. Lauren was only 10. M was 9 and Luijoe was 3 years old.

me_and_luijoe.jpgNo, I cannot die yet.

I cried in bed and my thoughts went to my mom during the days she suffered from the ravages of her breast cancer. I imagined her in the same situation , livid with fear of leaving my young kids and husband. Then I prayed and asked for forgiveness and understanding for all those years that we drifted apart. Bearing a grudge or deep resentment on someone is like cancer cells eating up your heart and mind. With the release of negative emotions of the past, I was ready for my surgery but first I took the day off before surgery to be with my kids at the play center in the mall. Thinking I might die on the operating table, I held on to these precious moments by having a fun photo shoot with my kids. I thought with a heavy heart .

They will look back to these memories and remember that their mom loved them so much.

kids.jpgI surrounded my hospital room at the Philippine General Hospital with these photos. Just before I left for the surgery, I gazed lovingly at the photo of my three beautiful children.

I can’t leave you yet. God, don’t let me die.

I needed a needle localization of my “breast mass” because it was not palpable and my surgeon need to know the exact location of this mass. With the long needle stabbed on to my left breast, my brother wheeled me over to the surgery room. There waiting for me was an outstanding surgeon, Dr. Rodney Dofitas, my brother-in-law. I gave instructions for him to remove my breast if found to be malignant. With everything in order I counted to ten as I fought back the anesthesia to kick in

Much later, I woke up to my brother-in-law who cheerfully announced that the breast mass was benign. He excised the mass for extra precaution, hence my left breast is a smaller than my right one. I don’t mind the disfigurement at all.

My heart just leaped with joy. I couldn’t help but cry and thank God for giving me this second chance. My friend died a year after my surgery. When I reached my 46th birthday, I thanked God for each additional year in my life that my mom didn’t enjoy. I celebrate each year with joy and gratitude that my kids still had a mother in their growing up years. Every additional year is a bonus.

It’s been 40 years since my mom died of breast cancer and technology for early breast cancer detection is in place. Even the medications increase chances of survival. There is even breast reconstruction surgery. Talk to your doctor soon.

 

pink for october

boobiethon1.jpgGo Pink in Support of Breast Cancer Awareness. National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is dedicated to increasing awareness of the importance of early breast cancer detection.

Photo above was taken a few months before mom discovered her breast cancer in 1972

Noemi Lardizabal-Dado (1346 Posts)

You may contact Noemi (noemidado @ gmail.com) for speaking and consultancy services in the following areas: Parenting in the Digital Age (includes pro-active parenting on cyber-bullying and bullying) ; Social Business ; Reinventing One’s Life; and social media engagement. Our parenting workshop is called "Prep to Prime (P2P): Parenting in the Digital Age (An Un­Workshop)" P2P Un­Workshops are conducted by two golden women in their prime, Noemi and Jane, who have a century’s worth of experience between them. They are both accomplished professionals who chose to become homemakers. This 180­degree turn also put them on a different life course which includes blogging, social media engagement and citizen advocacy. They call their un­workshops Prep to Prime or P2P, for short, to emphasize the breadth of their parenting experience. They tackle different aspects and issues of parenting ­­ from managing pregnancies, prepping for the school years of children, dealing with househelp, managing the household budget, to maximizing one’s prime life and staying healthy through the senior years.


About Noemi Lardizabal-Dado

You may contact Noemi (noemidado @ gmail.com) for speaking and consultancy services in the following areas: Parenting in the Digital Age (includes pro-active parenting on cyber-bullying and bullying) ; Social Business ; Reinventing One’s Life; and social media engagement. Our parenting workshop is called "Prep to Prime (P2P): Parenting in the Digital Age (An Un­Workshop)" P2P Un­Workshops are conducted by two golden women in their prime, Noemi and Jane, who have a century’s worth of experience between them. They are both accomplished professionals who chose to become homemakers. This 180­degree turn also put them on a different life course which includes blogging, social media engagement and citizen advocacy. They call their un­workshops Prep to Prime or P2P, for short, to emphasize the breadth of their parenting experience. They tackle different aspects and issues of parenting ­­ from managing pregnancies, prepping for the school years of children, dealing with househelp, managing the household budget, to maximizing one’s prime life and staying healthy through the senior years.

The comments posted on my blog are moderated. I reserve the right to remove comments, words or phrases that are defamatory, abusive, incite hatred and advertise an email address or commercial services or just plain spammy. I also reserve the right to remove posts that to my opinion are off-topic, irrelevant, ad-hominem, personal attacks and or just plain rude.
  • http://360.yahoo.com/aradualan MegaMom

    Thanks for sharing your story Noemi.

    • fightcancernow

      Hi! Someone very close to me also died of cancer and along the way, I learned a lot about conventional and alternative medicine. I realized that purely alternative medicine, when the cancer is advanced is very risky and of course purely conventional med will just give you chemo till you die. In my search I was able to meet this doctor, Dr. Maria Salud Sison, a Nutritional Oncologist based in Makati who’s approach is Integrative Complementary Medicine. Her approach is a bridge between all chemo conventional docs and all herbs docs and I have personally talked to her patients with CA stages raging from 1 to 4. Just wanna share. Her site is drmariasaludsison.multiply.com and also check “A World Without Cancer” on youtube. Its an international documentary about cancer and a filipino doctor, Dr. Manuel Navarro MD was mentioned. Dr. Sison trained Under Dr. Navarro before he died in 1992. Check out this documentary. Its full of insights and is very interesting…
      God Bless

  • http://www.homeworked.blogspot.com raqgold

    hi noemi — we should take this thing seriously. i also just got an email from a schoolmate that she’s got DCIS… on a light note, they said that breastfeeding helps in preventing breast cancer.

  • http://www.simplybelle.net/ Belle

    Noemi, i can relate. not too long ago, i also discovered a lump in my chest. i was scared like you and quickly made an appointment for mammogram and ultrasound. mammogram, which i hated, didn’t show anything but ultrasound did. imagine my little breasts were pulled and squeezed flat in those plates? agonizing only to found nothing! i don’t think i will have a mammogram again. anyway, the surgeon suggested that i have it removed soon as, he said, it was the kind that grew. surgery was done in the office for about half an hour.

    it turned out to be negative for malignancy but the lump never really disappeared. i still feel it right below the incision. it has been four months now since the surgery. i think it is time that i have an ultrasound again as i was reminded already from the doctor’s office but i keep putting it off.

  • http://nancydrewandme.blogspot.com Cathy

    Thanks for sharing your memories Noems. SLMC now has a digital mammography machine that is painless and 99% acurate.

  • http://aboutmyrecovery.com Noemi

    @Megamom- you are welcome

    @raqgold- sometimes the cancer is discovered when the lump is already there. What if it started as a hazy mass?

    @simplybelle- Your doctors would know best. Mine was removed because I was high risk for breast cancer.

    @cathy- Maybe I should go there next time.

  • http://scroochchronicles.blogspot.com/ Kongkong622

    Hi Noemi!! I was in a similar incident last year and it was at the time that my father was also dying from cancer. My ob-gyne felt a pea-sized lump on my breast and immediately sent me for a mammogram. Good thing it all came out negative.

    Cancer is such a painful disease. Not only for the patient but also for the family. To watch your loved one wither away and die a slow death…believe me it is something that will scar you forever.

  • http://aboutmyrecovery.com Noemi

    @kongkong- yes we saw how our mom suffered..from hair loss to the final loss of speech as the cancer reached her brain.

  • edith fallaria

    Hi noemi..God is indeed good and He really works in wondrous ways..
    I must say that i can relate to you in a way.. coz my sister also was diagnosed with breast cancer and had it for 2yrs she also had her treatment at PGH..but sadly or i must say with God’s grace she’s now in a much better place…a place where we can truly say ..HOME..HEAVEN..She just died last May 6,2007 .(.she has 3 kids) Until her last breath she really fought it out..she gave breast cancer a good fight…=)
    Breast cancer has thought me and my family a lot..it made us even more stronger in faith and in a lot of ways….it made us better persons…whenever i hear or read stories about people with breast cancer or families with loved ones who has breast cancer i can always feel that connection..thats why Im truly very blessed to read your story..I pray that you continue to live your life to the fullest with your family and that you continue to be a blessing & an inspiration to those who are still battling it out with The big C..Please never grew tired of sharing your story to other people esp for those whose afflicted with Breast Cancer..You can make a DIFFERENCE…God bless and my prayers are with you…God is really good!!

    • vina

      hi! I am sure your sister is with our good GOD now… well, i have no cancer but last year (july 2007) when i had my mammogram it showed that were are 8 nodules on my breast, both breast have nodules. those 8 nodules were distributed equally on my both breast, and fortunately all nodules are benign!

      now i have to undergo with another mammogram again, to check if the nodules are not worrisome. thanks for the advanced tech!!! st. lukes has digital mammogram now! according to the lab technician, compression is still there but lesser pain now….

      i just pray and hope that there still nothing to worry…i can feel pain on my both breast, bearable pain but it really makes me feel afraid…afraid that something not beautiful might happen 🙂

      i am not afraid to die …i am just very concern to those people whom i love so very much!!!! how will they take it if i will be leaving them permanently? if ever my time needs to end or i am destined to leave now, i would beg GOD to spare me 5 more years….

      after five years, i am pretty sure my dear ervin finished his college..he can study with out worries…he can enjoy being in college with out thinking about my condition (if ever i’ll go the negative way…i am not looking forward to that, but i can’t help it…my aunt died last month due to breast cancer)

      i know jek can handle life well…and erick, my one and only love, i’m sure he can handle it too…please GOD help me not to think these things…Your will be done my GOD… 🙂

  • lemon

    Hi Noemi,

    We lost our mama to breast cancer too and until now, I remember vividly that day when she and I got the mammogram results. Despite our meager medical background, there it was, those awful words which told us that despite the mastectomy, the cancer has spread.

    Until today too, there is that void from living without the person who knew and loved me like no other person did.

  • lemon

    p.s.

    Last year, upon discovering the lump in my breast, I spent several nights worrying about what would happen to my daughter should it be malignant. Hubby wouldn’t hear of postponing the surgery, so I went through it and thank god it was benign. I wish my dad was that attentive and insistent too with my mom. Unknown to us children, her lump started with the size of a marble and went on to a fist-like mass.

  • http://aboutmyrecovery.com Noemi

    @edith- the experience taught us to be stronger. I learned to appreciate myself as a mom and often pray for good health for the sake of my kids

    @lemon- oh we have something in common. The awful words…cancer had spread. My mom lost her speech in her last 2 months of her life. I think she suffered for a day or two. thank God. I’m glad you had that closeness. I only felt close to my mom( her spirit) when I had that fear of having the surgery.

    Thank goodness, your lump was benign. How old was your mom when she died?

  • http://atheista.net benj

    That was a great read, Noemi.

    The whole idea behind hormones triggering cancer has been a serious sticking point. Many studies have come out with differing results. Hormones do exacerbate the disease when its already present though.

    Hopefully more breakthroughs will be reached soon. We’re seeing vaccines for cervical cancer right now and one for ovarian might be on the way.

  • http://www.thesweetlife-rowena.blogspot.com Rowena

    Hi Noemi, thanks for sharing your story. I felt sad when I looked at your Mom’s photo. She’ so young when she left. Must have been hard for you and your siblings back then…

  • http://feistymomma.com dexie

    we’re all affected of this somehow, one way or another. hubby’s grandmother is in remission. thanks for sharing your story Noemi.

  • http://aboutmyrecovery.com Noemi

    @benj- thanks for the explanation. I hope there will be a vaccine for breast cancer soon. It is just so prevalent.

    @Rowena- At the time she died, I thought 45 was old. Now that I am 50, wow I think 45 is so young.

    @dexie- I pray your hubby’s grandma continues to have that remission.

  • lemon

    Ms. NOemi,

    Mama was 57 when she passed away. And we really took it hard, and we still do. Imagine losing your mom when she was only 45. Makes us thank each day that we can still talk (and sometimes squabble) with our loved ones.

  • http://www.RadiantView.com Lorna Dietz

    Hi, Noems:

    Some clarifications/additions: Mom died on July 25, 1976. She was operated on during my first day as a college freshman at UP Cebu (sometime in June 1973, I guess). I do remember that I was physically “hauled” out of the UP dining room by Uncle Floren (where I was having my catering class lunch duties). That plane ride back to Cebu was our first-ever. I do remember clearly that we all slept in a hospital room close to the ICU that same night. I recall reading “Surviving the Loss of a Love” that same night — and having a vivid dream with mom in a casket with all of us, mourners, in a procession toward CemPark.

    Was it a day or two after that we were all called in one by one to say good-bye to Mom? That moment is indelibly etched in my mind. Dad was seated beside her, his face so sad, oh so sad. I gingerly crept up slowly to Mom, who was on life support, and instead of saying “good-bye,” I kissed her on one cheek and wished her, “Good luck!” Even then, I was wishing her a safe journey to whereabouts unknown.

    Thanks for recording this sad milestone in our lives. I will ask Mom’s old barkada/classmates in UP, College of Education to read your blog entry.

    love,

    Lorna

  • http://www.mc-s.com.au Dr Jeff Aitkin

    Really sorry to hear about your mom, my empathy is with you and glad that you are able to tell the story for everyone to know what it is like, you have a strong spirit. A very dear friend of mine died in recent years also, and she was very young, only 33. I have been looking into some new research completed by Newcastle University in Australia that was published this year on breast cancer. If you know someone who is affected by breast cancer or yourself you might like to read some of the details on http://www.mc-s.com.au, or the way i found the site was to search in google for ‘metabolic cell support’. Hope that is helpful for someone. Thank you, Dr Jeff Aitkin

  • http://http:/www.ode2old.blogspot.com annamanila

    Oh, Noems. I didn’t know you had a scare like this. It was benign, hallelujah. But I guess you should still have regular check ups?

    I love the pictures of the young Mom Noems and kids.

  • Tinus van den Heever

    My mother died of breast cancer in July. I am 15 and my mon had breast cancer since I was 9. She had her hardest fall in December and the doctors said she would die. She had been in a coma for a long while and I wrote was writing ecxames that november and studied at the hospital.I could not let her go yet because I had not prepared for it. However God heard my prairs and gave her another six months as she recovered. However it was not peacefull 6 months as she had memory loss and shifted in her past, for example no she thinks she’s 5 years old and in 5 min she’ll think she’s 18 years.So she could not recocnize me. she recovered from that again and had a peacefull 4 months in wich we were verry close and she past away while I was at school in my fathers arms. She past away 3 days before my July exams started.I did not see her that day as I was late for school and had to hurry. “Mom, I still love you and miss you everry day!”

    • vina

      Well, i have no cancer but last year (july 2007) when i had my mammogram it showed that were 8 nodules on my breast, both breast have nodules. Those 8 nodules were distributed equally on my both breast, and fortunately all nodules are benign!

      Now i have to undergo with another mammogram again, to check if the nodules are not worrisome. Thanks for the advanced tech!!! St. Lukes has digital mammogram now! According to the lab technician, compression is still there but lesser pain now….

      I just pray and hope that there still nothing to worry…I can feel pain on my both breast, bearable pain but it really makes me feel afraid…afraid that something not beautiful might happen 🙂

      I am not afraid to die …I am just very concern to those people whom I love so very much!!!! How will they take it if I will be leaving them permanently? If ever my time has to end or I am destined to leave now, I would beg GOD to spare me 5 more years….

      After five years, I am pretty sure my dear Ervin finished his college. He can study with out worries…he can enjoy being in college with out thinking about my condition (if ever I’ll go the negative way…I am not looking forward to that, but I can’t help it…my aunt died last month due to breast cancer)

      I know Jek can handle life well…and Erick, my one and only love, I’m sure he can handle it too…please GOD help me not to think these things…Your will be done my GOD… 🙂

  • scalp cancer from toppik

    Hi Noemi,

    Thanks for sharing your story. Your story remind me to my untie whoe passed away 7 years ago due to cancer.

    Thanks,
    scalp cancer from toppik

  • http://kakuekiteisha Cy

    Hi, I found your website while searching for the name of Dr. Dofitas. He is also the doctor of my sister who is scheduled to undergo an operation tomorrow in Manila because of a lump in her breast. Now, I am confident that my sister is in good hands. I just talked to my sister over the phone and she said Dr. Dofitas will still have to know after the operation if the lump is malignant or benign. I hope and pray that it`s not malignant.

    Thank you for sharing your stories about how you survived women`s worst enemy. As I was reading through your website, I was surprised to see your familiar face. Then I realized I read two years ago your blog about losing a son. That made me cry. Indeed, you`ve gone a long way. I admire your courage in overcoming all these trials. More strength and power to you!

  • Flor

    my aunt went to the hospital to have breasts checked. She already noticed lumps. It turned out that the lumps are malignant. My aunt is single so we’re the only family she got. Now, I’m just scared.

  • Pingback: Proudly Filipina » A Filipina Mom Blogger »()

  • Pingback: I chose to stay, Prof Monsod but what happened? | A Filipina Mom Blogger()