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When cancer gets personal: student reflects on her mother’s battle against breast cancer

Courtesy+of+Ivie+Maher
Courtesy of Ivie Maher

Courtesy of Ivie Maher

Courtesy of Ivie Maher

Carly Swain, FOCUS EDITOR

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   Seven years ago, junior Ivie Maher’s life turned upside down. She and her parents were picking up her brother Michael from school when her 40-year-old mother, Wendy, broke the news: she had just been diagnosed with stage three breast cancer.

   “She found out on the first of October, which is kind of ironic because October is breast cancer awareness month,” Ivie said. “They were doing everything at school for breast cancer awareness and so when he found out, my brother knew what it was.”

   Ivie, who was nine years old at the time, didn’t fully understand the weight of the situation. However, the seemingly small changes in her life reflected the huge obstacles her mother was facing. Ivie remembers family and friends stopping by their house to help, often with home-cooked meals. Their involvement and support helped alleviate Ivie’s stress and worry about her mother’s condition.

   “I’ve realized that you can’t take anything or anyone for granted,” Ivie said. “Even if you find yourself in an unfortunate circumstance, you can still get through it. Family and friends are key: don’t take your family for granted.”     

   One memory that particularly sticks out in Ivie’s mind is when her mother went through chemotherapy.

   “I remember when she started losing her hair, I got a little freaked out because I saw my mom bald,” Ivie said.  “But she offered to wear a wig or scarf so that I wouldn’t be uncomfortable. Michael and I were really little, but she was very understanding.”

   Wendy battled through chemotherapy, radiation treatment and reconstructive surgery with a brave face. All the while, she refused to let cancer keep her from her role as a mother to her two young children.

   “She was pretty amazing,” Ivie said. “She was still herself with her friends and family, and she didn’t let it bring her down. She didn’t let the cancer get in the way of her living and raising her kids. She was very tough.”

    Wendy is now seven years cancer-free. When not working as a realtor, she likes to spend her time with her family and their pet horse.

    As a close relative to a breast cancer survivor, Ivie realizes that she is at a higher risk of developing the disease than many other girls.

    “It has really affected me because now I know that I have to get tested at 30,” Ivie said. “I have to start getting tested way earlier than a person who’s never had breast cancer in their family. I have to be really careful.”

    Armed with awareness about the disease, Ivie encourages other girls and women to be proactive in the fight against breast cancer.

    “You always need to get tested,” Ivie said. “Check yourself, because if you notice that something’s off, then something could be really wrong and then you can go to the doctor. If you catch it early, it’s much more treatable than if you catch it later.”

    In regards to how we can help friends and family members who are battling with breast cancer, Ivie emphasizes the value of support and encouragement.

    “Support those people around you who are going through it,” Ivie said. “It was the support that helped me more than anything.”

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When cancer gets personal: student reflects on her mother’s battle against breast cancer