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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Why Did My Mother Die from Breast Cancer?

November 25, 2010 by  
Filed under Cancer Stories

Mom as a child

My Mom as a Child

I guess the simple answer is: she skipped having a mammogram for 2 years in a row. Why no mammogram for two years? What she told me, and I have no idea what she told others or what her true reasons may have been, but what she said to me was, she found mammograms to be painful and humiliating.

My Mother was raised on the North Shore of Massachusetts. She had a ‘Boston accent’ that was such that I thought my name was ‘Mac’ for sometime. (My name is Mark). I remember while growing up that we had other people living with us at various times. My father’s mother and my mother’s mother. Those, one would expect. Then we had a friend of my father’s mother stay toward the end of her life. We had a student from another country stay with us for a year. Then, my best friend whose parents had moved to Ireland for a couple of years and he wanted to stay and finish school in the town I was in, but had no where to stay was taken in by my parents. My mother took it upon herself to treat him as she would any of her biological children and got him up every school day and made sure he graduated. That was the kind of person she had become.

I remember, she was involved in the town politics and I am sure had differences with others also in the town politics,

yet even when in the confines of her own home, never once can I remember her degrading anyone for anything. I should be so considerate! She was not a whiner or complainer. She was, however a very good gardener.

So this New England, ‘stoic’ lady just didn’t make appointments for mammograms for almost three years. By the time it became obvious that there was a problem, it was past the window of opportunity to treat it effectively. She did have surgery. I remember being told that they opened her and after looking, closed her without doing anything, the cancer had become that invasive. I also remember being told her life span was going to be in the neighborhood of 6 months, give or take some. I immediately went into denial and refused to accept that prognoses. Apparently so did she as she lived another seven years. Seven years and until the last couple, was still involved in town politics and gardening. Only now, her gardening was more telling my father what she wanted and where, and less doing it herself.

Mom Laughing

My Mother 'Howling with Laughter'

Over the course of almost forty years, she and dad had planted and created gardens on close to eight acres of the twelve acre plot the house was on. Something in the area of fifteen gardens that blended into one another were contained in those eight acres. Gardens of wildflowers, day lily beds, a meditation garden, some with fountains and even a koi fish pond, (that had mostly goldfish in it). Benches, swings, and even a gazebo dotted the gardens. They had done a beautiful job and created a beautiful area. And then my mother died.

I was in denial about her dying for a very long time. My father was still alive, yet I felt like an orphan. I was 44 years old when she passed, and still was not accepting it. When some of the denial wore off, I felt angry. I was angry at myself for not being aware she was not having mammograms and mad because I didn’t even realize she should have been. I was also angry at her for not having them, she DID know she should have been. The reasons she told me she did not have the mammograms seemed small and insignificant in the light of her passing.

There is no way I or anyone can ever know, that if by having the mammograms her cancer would have been caught earlier. Yet, with many woman who were able to discover their cancer early and undergo effective, if intense treatment, I can not help but believe had she not skipped those tests, that she might be alive to this day. At least, she may have lived for a longer period of time that she did live for. No one can ever know for sure. If a lesson can be learned from this story, it is that no one should skip mammograms or other tests, including self examinations, as doing so can greatly reduce one’s life and the quality of one’s life. My number one reason for posting personal information on a public web site is to help illustrate the need for these tests and the hope this story might save even one life.

My mother with Mussi, a small black cocker spaniel

Mom & Mussi, She Loved Dogs

I also know of women who got breast cancer as early as in their twenties! There is not a set age to begin, at least, self-exams. Especially if there is any history of any cancer in the family, or no history at all, (for instance, if adopted).

My father decided that he would create an organization that would give support and comfort to those with breast cancer and breast cancer survivors. An organization that would offer complementary therapies, such as group therapy, massage, crafting groups, yoga, etc. All with no regard to any person’s financial abilities. Support without financial barriers, I believe he called it.

There was a small house on three acres of the twelve acre plot that my father’s mother had lived in for years. He gave that house and the surrounding three acres to the new organization and called it: The Virginia Thurston Healing Garden. The small house became known as Estelle’s Cottage after my father’s mother. When he sold the large house he and mom had lovingly tended and raised four children in for forty years, his one request was that the women receiving support at the Healing Garden, have access to the gardens mom and he created over that forty year span.

Today, over eight hundred women have received comfort and support from my father’s creation. It has managed to become self-supporting through fund raising events and gifts. The Healing Garden’s Director, Betsy Tyson-Smith has done a phenomenal job of making the seed my father planted grow into an entire garden of hope for hundreds of women lucky enough to live close by, but unlucky enough to have to go through the ravages of breast cancer.

It is this history that compels me to make this site. My hope being that some small measure of help and support might be offered to those around the world, unable to visit The Virginia Thurston Healing Garden. It is also my distant hope that someday, someone with enough money may see this and decide to create another breast cancer healing garden in their area.

In the meantime, I will continue growing this web site. Slowly and carefully. I want to always make sure, anyone visiting understand that the therapies discussed here are NOT to be implemented with out discussing them with their own doctor. Never should these therapies be used in lieu of whatever therapy someone is on now. This site’s information should serve only as a starting point for a discussion with one’ s local health-care professionals in an effort to help make this terrible journey even a tiny bit easier.

Thank you for visiting this site and for your support for anyone fighting this disease, or any cancer.

Audio: Why Did My Mother Have to Die of Breast Cancer?
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8 Responses to “Why Did My Mother Die from Breast Cancer?”
  1. I hardly comment on your blog but I think this story is very moving so I…had to! ;)

    Happy New Year, and Peace! :D
    Arindam Chakraborty recently posted..Is PLR Dead? – A "Post-Panda Update" Analysis!My Profile

  2. anthony May says:

    Hello Mark and Chris,

    I was touch by this site. I would like to chat with you regarding a gift I would like to give you to honor your mom. Can you please reach me?

    Anthony May
    Men For A Cause, United Against Breast Cancer
    anthony May recently posted..Official Breast Cancer Awareness FlagMy Profile

  3. Aromatherapy can be a great resource to ease discomfort. Be sure to check with your doctor before implementing any aromatherapy into your treatment as some can have negative interactions with medications you are already on. For more info, check The World of Aromatherapy , Aromatherapy for Breast Cancer , & Essential Oil Therapy for Breast Cancer as well as Aromatic Health .
    Mark Thurston recently posted..The Politics of Donating to Breast Cancer…My Profile

  4. aromatherapy says:

    Gosh, I’ve been looking about this specific topic for about an hour, glad i found it in your website!

  5. Chris says:

    my dear sweet little brother, Mark,
    What a beautiful and poignant story. Mom did find mammograms humiliating and painful. She was deeply embarrassed by her own body. And she was always very private about all things, especially those to do with the body. And because of it, I raised my 3 girls to be unashamed (not the same as having no boundaries!).
    It’s really related to cultural shame for women.
    Rather than getting cancer from her own decision to skip a few mammograms, I see it as related to how women are viewed, objectified, shamed. A result of our backwards and misguided understanding of gender and personhood.
    I was angry at her initially as well. And then I reconsidered all the incoming messages and how she seemed to relate to her own body and realized it had much more to do with the culture at large. Sometimes we don’t realize how deeply the messages go.
    So I hope women can recognize that any shame they feel isn’t about them, that their bodies are beautiful exactly as they are and that they deserve to care for themselves because their spirits, their beautiful souls and hearts, live in these bodies. And that their bodies are a part of their beautiful selves. So like you, I hope sharing this story will help women to take excellent care of themselves, and to do so unashamedly.
    Thanks for doing this, Mark. You are a beacon of light.


Check out what others are saying about this post...
  1. Why Did My Mother Die from Breast Cancer? | I Have This Little Garden…

    This is the story of how my mother found out she had breast cancer too late to have it effectively treated. Shows how it is imperative that people NOT skip mammograms and do self exams on a consistent basis….

  2. Why Did My Mother Die from Breast Cancer? | I Have This Little Garden – Women's Health says:

    [...] See more here: Why Did My Mother Die from Breast Cancer? | I Have This Little Garden [...]

  3. [...] no one should skip mammograms or other tests, including self examinations, as doing so can greatly reduce one’s life and the quality of one’s life. See more here: Why Did My Mother Die from Breast Cancer? | I Have This Little Garden [...]

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