By Tina Hall
Sister Study participant
One day in April, after my sister returned from a trip, she called to inform me that she had discovered a lump under her left arm. She made an appointment to have it checked out and, after two weeks, my sister had confirmation that it was, in fact, breast cancer. We discussed the treatment recommended by her doctor.
At that time, I was the strong and supportive sister. Once I hung up the phone, I began to wonder, "Will I have to take care of her; Will my two nephews come to live with me or go live with their father; are my sister's affairs in order? We had been through this with our mother, who had been diagnosed with colon cancer. And our lives had changed rapidly in order to provide the care our mother needed in the months before she passed.
I started to think of how similar our health issues are among the things we share. We were both being monitored for colon cancer. I didn't know what to expect, but I did know that I would be there for her. My sister was a trouper. She kept her head up and maintained a positive attitude. She used humor to deal with the hard things, like the loss of her hair. We began to increase our phone calls and had a few more visits than in the past. I reassured my sister of how proud I was of her and how beautiful she is.
Now, Wanda has completed her chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Her hair is growing back, and she has regained her figure. My sister is very active in her local chapter of Sisters Network, Inc.
I became involved in the Sister Study at the invitation of my sister. Wanda cares enough about me and other women that she would like to ensure that all women are aware of the importance of prevention, treatment and cure. We talk about the need for women to know that breast cancer can be hereditary, and that early detection is vital through breast self-examination and regular mammograms.
Need more information on Breast Cancer?
- For a slideshow with sound and pictures: Click on Interactive Tutorials at upper right; on the next screen, under Diseases and Conditions, click on Breast Cancer.
- For more on Breast Cancer: Click on Health Topics at upper left of main screen; click on B, scroll down to Breast Cancer. Under Start Here, click on What You Need to Know about Breast Cancer.
This research is especially important for women of color, whether African American, Hispanic, Native American or Asian American. There is not enough information about minority women, so we are unsure of what to do, we are afraid of not understanding what the doctor is telling us, and we infrequently participate in research studies. Breast cancer doesn't have to be a death sentence. The more researchers know, the better they can predict or prevent this from affecting so many women. Sisters have a common bond in their genetic makeup.
The Sister Study enables researchers to look at the environmental and genetic issues that may contribute to the development of breast cancer. This research is only beneficial if they have committed participants. I invite you to get involved, not only for yourself but for generations of women to come.