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A Piece of My Mind
March 21, 2001

Searching for Margaret

Author Affiliations
 

A Piece of My Mind Section Editor: Roxanne K. Young, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 2001;285(11):1413-1414. doi:10.1001/jama.285.11.1413

I am the fifth of six children born to Boston Irish parents and I am a breast cancer survivor. I have been a survivor for more years than I have carried that diagnosis on my medical record. When the day finally arrived and I was told that lump that I couldn't feel in my left breast was indeed cancer, I was 40 years old. My husband later told me I had spent my whole life anticipating that day.

I was 13 in 1968 when my mother, Margaret, left our suburban home and took the train down to New York City for breast surgery. She must have known it would be cancer. Just the year before she cried when she heard about her sister's breast cancer: "I wish it was me instead of her," Mom said. "Her children are so young." My aunt was the spirited youngest daughter of a large Irish brood. She was just 40 when she found she had breast cancer. She had four young children, the youngest still a toddler. Whatever her own fears, my mother minimized them as she considered her sister's situation.

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