Saturday, September 26, 2009

My Mom’s Breast Cancer in the 1960’s: The Untold Story

I wanted to share a personal story with you, which shows the long history of breast cancer. So often we forget to share the stories of yesterday which have helped to map out today’s path. We need to know about those brave doctors and women of our past who pioneered the way for today’s fight against breast cancer.

When I was in the 2nd Grade (1964) my mother, Juliet, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her doctor had lost his wife to the disease and checked all his female patients for it. When he discovered my mom’s lump, he sent her to Stanford University Medical Center in Palo Alto, California for a biopsy. When the results came back they were inconclusive. Refusing to accept this as an answer, he had the pathology sent back east. The results came back… Mom had a radical mastectomy. Her lymph nodes we removed and she was carved from her neck bone down. In those days this was the only option and her scaring was severe.

I was 7, my bother Tom was 6, and my sister Susan was 2 years old. We were so young and the operation was so extreme that mom could not take care of us. She and dad needed help.

My mother lost her mom (Ana, my name-sake) when she was 18, so they sent for my dad’s mother, Anna from Brooklyn, New York. To make room for her, my siblings and I had to share one room. I can still see the set up: 2 twin beds up against the side walls and a crib next to the closet. In my mind’s eye I remember sitting next to my mom on her bed as Grandma changed the bandages. Grandma lived with us for a year during my mom’s recovery. It was a hard time for my parents but it gave us children a time to get to know our NY Grandmother (another story for another time).

Flash forward to 2009… I am proud to say because of that doctor’s persistent efforts, my mom celebrated her 85th birthday in August. She has seen her children grow and prosper and in May of 2010 she will see the last of her 7 grandchildren graduate from High School. Mom never talks about her ordeal; but every once in a while will say “I need to get a new boob, this one sprung a leak.” Then she is off to get fitted for a new prosthetic and new bras.

Juliet Aboussleman - a 45 year Breast Cancer Survivor!

On Friday, October 2nd, please wear your denim jeans along side Christina Applegate and help support all breast cancer survivors and patients in Lee National Denim Day. For more information please visit:

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