Mother Confronts Cancer Again with Daughter’s Diagnosis
Mary McLean comes from a long line of women named Mary. She continued that particular family tradition when she named her daughter, Boober! Mary Ashby. To cut down on confusion, the elder Mary goes by Ms. Mary. Ms. Mary and her daughter share more than a name, though. They were also both diagnosed with breast cancer.
The first time around
Ms. Mary was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in November of 2002 after she felt a bump while performing a routine self-exam.
“I felt something that didn’t feel quite right, so I went to my family doctor,” Ms. Mary explained.
Ms. Mary will never forget how she felt when she heard the diagnosis. “It was chilling,” she said. “My main thought was that I had to try to have a positive point of view. I told myself that I was going to be OK.”
She was 60 years old when she was diagnosed. Ms. Mary went through chemo and radiation and had a lumpectomy performed on her left breast. She turned to a friend in South Carolina for support; the two had been members of the same church. Ms. Mary called her friend after receiving the news because she knew her friend had been diagnosed with breast cancer and had undergone a double mastectomy.
“She provided a lot of support and encouraged me to hang in there,” Ms. Mary said. “Sadly, she has since passed away.”
The second time around
In August of 2013 Ms. Mary’s daughter, Mary Ashby, felt a lump in her breast during a routine self-exam. Mary had always performed self-exams, but her mother’s breast cancer diagnosis had made her even more aware of their benefits. “Mary had been told before that she had lumpy breasts,” Ms. Mary said. “They told her she was too young to have breast cancer and passed it off.”
After Mary moved from Fairfax, Virginia, to Williamsburg, she found a lump in her breast and under her arm. She went to the ER and they sent her to a doctor, who found a lump in her breast and sent her to have a mammogram. She insisted they find out what was going on and a mammogram and biopsy were performed on her left breast.
Mary was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer at only 35 years old.
“I felt that same chill I experienced when I was diagnosed,” Ms. Mary said. “It was like repeating my own experience.” Ms. Mary was relieved that doctors had delivered a diagnosis, even though the prospect of cancer was frightening. “We were happy to finally know what was going on,” she said. “After you find out what is happening, it is easier to deal with it.”
Mary underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments, as well as a mastectomy. Her husband and mother both accompanied her to appointments for treatment.
As a mother, it was difficult for Ms. Mary to see her daughter go through cancer treatment. “Lots of things go through your mind when you see your child sick,” Ms. Mary said. “I gave her all of the love, understanding, and support that I could give. I just kept saying ‘Lord, give me the strength to keep holding on.’”
Ms. Mary is grateful that her daughter has a group like Beyond Boobs! to turn to for help and guidance. “They have been through the same things she has,” Ms. Mary said. “They understand how she feels from day to day.”
Ms. Mary doesn’t believe in pity parties and she encourages everyone to live life to the fullest, no matter what. “Many times people aren’t going to understand what you’re going through because they haven’t been there,” she said. “But you need to enjoy life. If you can afford something and want to do it, do it. It can be something as simple as going out to lunch, shopping, or attending church. Anything that gets you out and keeps you going.”
Ms. Mary credits her faith for helping her and her family through the rough patches in life. “The Lord has kept us thus far, and we believe that He will continue to guide us from here,” she said.