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Wellness Guide: Breast Cancer

What My Mama Taught Me: Demisha's Story

"I always felt like cancer was stalking my family. Ever since I was a little girl, I had heard gruesome stories of how my grandmother had died of cancer at 52. My mother would often cry because she missed her mother so much. I grew up dreading cancer and the prospect of losing my mother like she had lost hers. Then one day, my mother called me with the news I had always feared. She had breast cancer. I could literally feel my head swirl and the bottom fall out from under me. Death was coming for another female in my family, and this time it was going to be my mother. Not only was I going to lose her just like she lost her mother, but I knew I would eventually have it too. I was also afraid that I would pass the genes on to every girl child that came from me. It felt so completely hopeless and inevitable.

"Luckily, my mother always did breast self-exams, had regular mammograms, and clinical breast exams. They were able to find her cancer very early. In fact, they were able to remove all of it and she didn't have to have any other treatment like radiation or chemo. She is beat it. Because she control over her health she was able to break the cycle of death. She also taught me a valuable lesson - the importance of screening for early detection. Since I have such a strong family history of breast cancer, I had my first mammogram at 35, which was much younger than doctors normally recommend. Every month I check my breasts so that I know what they feel like and can notice if there are any changes to my breasts. I also get an annual clinical examination with my physical every year. Things are different from when my grandmother died. Doctors can treat cancer much better now, especially if its found early. As black women it is so important for us to take charge of our own health and get screened. That's what my mama taught me."

"Lesbian and bisexual women or women who partner with women only – be consistent!" – Demisha, age 37