Breast Cancer Awareness: My Grandma has tattoos! What?

jenni 2

I was always very close with my grandparents. A week would not go by without spending at least one afternoon or evening with Grandma and Pop Pop.

Yet, as close as I was with Grandma, there was one thing she kept from me for quite some time. She was a breast cancer survivor.

She never talked about her struggle with cancer at family gatherings or when she was surrounded by her friends. It was almost as if it never happened. But it did.

My cousin and I would always plan sleepovers at Grandma and Pop Pop’s house on the weekends. One night when we were getting ready for bed I noticed Grandma didn’t have anything inside her bra other than a bunch of tissues. It wasn’t a secret anymore. That’s when she shared her story with me.

My grandmother had a mastectomy. When a lump was detected in the other breast, she had to sign on the dotted line to allow the surgeon to remove the other breast if they found the cancer had spread. When she awoke from the surgery, she found the one remaining breast she had, was gone.

Grandma wasn’t very emotional about it when talked about it. It was like it was no big deal. I think I was in shock.

In her bedroom that night she asked me if I wanted to see her tattoos. What? My grandma has tattoos?

Now I was curious. Of course I wanted to see them.

She proceeded to show me the marks on her chest from the radiation treatment. And just as quickly, she put the bra back on and shoved the tissues back in each side. Those were grandma’s tattoos.

As her granddaughter, the marks weren’t gross. They were a symbol of strength.

She was the strongest woman in my life. She didn’t let breast cancer define her. Instead she defied it.

Grandma beat breast cancer and continued to live into her 90s. She was the glue that held our family together. She was sweet as pie but had no tolerance for anyone who tried to mess with her family.

In 2011, I registered to walk 60 miles in the Three Day Walk hosted by Susan G. Komen. I chose to the walk in Arizona. I wore Grandma’s name on my shirt along with the names of other women I knew who were struggling with breast cancer. It was quite an emotional experience.

The best part: The people (total strangers) standing on the side of the road cheering you on as you walked by and thanking you for walking in honor of their loved ones and friends.

I have since funneled my energy and efforts into a local organization providing support to women right here on the Eastern Shore who are fighting this battle — Women Supporting Women.

I have only been a part of the organization for about a month, but I can honestly say that I have met some of the most amazing, strong and inspirational women that are making every second I dedicate to this cause — worth it 100 times over.

Jenni Pastusak is a marketing consultant who lives in Salisbury.

 

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