As told by Haley Carter
My name is Haley Carter and I’m here to tell you about a real “pink lady.” Not the “pink ladies” you see in the movie “Grease,” but a kind of pink lady who learned she had a huge battle to fight. She was the one in eight women diagnosed with breast cancer. Her name is Kerrie, and she is my wonderful mother.
I remember well when she was diagnosed. It was close to my 13th birthday. Thirteen is a big milestone birthday because I would officially be a teenager. This was supposed to be a big day! However, for my 13th birthday I found out my mother had breast cancer. I know firsthand what it is like to watch my mother, the one who was always there for me, get the news she was no longer invincible.
My mother was 44 and in the best shape of her life. She had joined Weight Watchers to learn to eat better due to extensive travel for work and she had lost 16 pounds and was looking great.
One morning while in the shower, she felt an unusual lump in her left breast while soaping her body. The lump was large, about the size of the end of her thumb. She made a few calls to some doctors for information, and then two months later decided to find out just what this could be.
Two mammograms, a sonogram and one biopsy later, she found herself on the other end of a phone call hearing news that would rock her world and our entire family, “You have breast cancer,” her doctor advised her.
These were horrifying words for my mother because she had watched breast cancer ravage and ultimately take the life of her grandmother in 1981.
It is truly amazing that the “two” things that make a woman feel sexy and beautiful can be the very things that make her sick.
My mother spent years growing up on the beach in California and wearing very flattering swimsuits. Yes, she liked to show off “the girls” occasionally, what girl wouldn’t want to get attention now and then? Being given this devastating diagnosis changed all that.
Breast cancer detection and treatment has come a long way since 1981 and it is so important in playing a role in the outcome for the woman involved. A plan was outlined. She would have surgery, 6 treatments of chemotherapy and 33 days of radiation. Just 3 weeks after being diagnosed, my mother was in the fight of her life.
Weekly shots, being physically sick, having no energy, losing her long, beautiful hair and feeling tired all the time followed. It was tough watching her go through this terrifying journey. She had always been so energetic, always planning and carrying out many of the social events in our neighborhood. She was always the biggest advocate and cheerleader for our neighborhood swim team and, of course, the best mom in the world to my two sisters and me.
Many tears were shed and much confusion abounded for my father, my sisters and me. We just did not know what to do to help her. This was out of our hands and in the hands of one far greater than us.
There were good and bad days for her and our entire family, but what I remember most was her courage. Kerrie Carter is a strong woman and she gave this disease the best fight she could. She was determined not to be defeated by this cancer in her body.
I am happy to say that on July 19th, my mother will be a nine-year breast cancer survivor. She will always have it on her mind and she has the battle scars to prove it, but she is still here, alive and well because she caught it early. This is the most important step in dealing with breast cancer.
I have two sisters and the odds are that we also are at risk. Breast cancer has already stricken 3 members of my mother’s family. All we can do is live healthy, take the steps to know our bodies, do regular breast checks ourselves, and be aware. It is a matter of life and death. Do this for yourself.
Paulette Ballard collects interesting, funny and unusual stories from people in and around Lincolnton. If you have a story you would like to submit for her column, e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org. In the subject line type “For your column.” Include your name and phone number for her to contact you.