By Amanda McNally
I was 12 years old the first time I heard the words “breast cancer”. I had no idea what breast cancer would mean for my family and although I understood that my mother was sick, I always, always thought she’d get better. I was just 16 when my mother passed away from this disease. After her death one of the most difficult things for me was feeling powerless. I knew I had to do something but since I wasn’t very good in the science department (understatement of the year) I figured I would have to leave it up to someone else to find a cure.
Then at the age of twenty, just 4 years after losing my mom to breast cancer, I discovered a lump in my right breast. I have never been more terrified. All I really knew about breast cancer then was that it ended my mother’s life. Thankfully, a biopsy determined that the lump was benign and it was removed. It wasn’t long after that I began to realize that although I couldn’t single-handedly find the cure, I could be a part of the force behind finding one and I began to participate in the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation CIBC Run for the Cure.
This was a life changing moment for me. Participating in the Run offered me something I didn’t have before – a feeling of taking action. I was no longer sitting idly by waiting to see if my story would be like my mother’s. I encouraged friends and family to join and we began raising funds. Over the years we have raised tens of thousands of dollars for breast cancer.
Six years ago my son was born and nothing could have prepared me for the rollercoaster of emotions I would feel not having my mother there. I knew I would be sad but this was so much more than that – I came undone. I was plagued by thoughts of “what if what happened to my mom happens to me”. I couldn’t imagine not getting to see my son grow up. I decided I needed to be more involved in the cause and became the volunteer Vancouver Run Director for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation CIBC Run for the Cure. My experience as a volunteer Run Director was more therapeutic than any amount of therapy ever could be.
This past August marked the 23rd anniversary of my mother’s death. So much more is known now about breast cancer – the importance of prevention, early detection and awareness. I often wonder what my mom would think of how far we have come since her breast cancer diagnosis over 20 years ago. I can only hope that she knows the role she has played in inspiring me to do all I can against this disease and that she is proud of all that has been accomplished so far, of all that I have accomplished so far.
I am 39 years old now and when my mom was this age she was sick. And dying. I have always thought she died young but to be that age now gives me more perspective and it breaks my heart.
Two years ago I was hired by the Foundation and am now blessed to be the Community Relations Coordinator and I get to do a job I love while honoring my mom every day. I work hard each day to ensure that my son, and now my 3 year old daughter, never grow up knowing what it is like to lose their mother to breast cancer.
Amanda is the Community Relations Coordinator at the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation BC/Yukon Region. She lives in White Rock, BC with her husband Chris and two children Jacob (5) and Penny (3). Amanda’s passion for the cause comes from her desire to create a future without breast cancer so her children never know what it like to lose their mother to breast cancer. Follow her @mrsmandymac.