Published: Wednesday, October 6, 2010 at 5:41 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 6, 2010 at 5:41 p.m.

There are only a few things in this world that turn your blood cold and cause your heart to fall into your stomach.

One of these things is finding out you or a loved one has a life-threatening disease. This happened to me about a year and a half ago when I was told my 77-year-old mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. It is one of those things that changes you forever and you never quite look at the world in the same way.

Fortunately, it was caught early enough that she made a full recovery, but only after watching her suffer through radical surgery and months of debilitating treatment. It is something I wish no one would ever have to witness or go through themselves. My mother is one of the strongest people I know who refused to let this evil control her life. Even through the nausea and weakness, she would always put on a smile and pull herself together to spoil her grandkids and try to ease the worry that the family lived with constantly.

Though she lost her hair and suffered other physical torments, she soldiered on and beat the odds that were stacked against her. She is an inspiration and a true representation of how determination and faith can overcome anything put before you. It is also a testament on how getting regular checkups can prevent getting into a situation that unfortunately cannot be fixed.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and it is a wonderful opportunity to inform and educate all people about the issues surrounding this horrible illness. You will see everyone from professional football players to musicians showing their support for research and education for breast cancer by wearing pink. On Oct. 2, 3,000 women participated in the 18th annual Women’s Only 5K Walk/Run for Breast Cancer in Greensboro to raise money for a mammography scholarship fund that will benefit low-income women and those who are uninsured.

Although struggling with being treated for breast cancer, Susan G. Komen was more concerned about how other people were dealing with breast cancer in there own lives and what could be done to ease their suffering. At her death, Susan’s sister, Nancy Brinker, started the Susan G. Komen Foundation in 1982 as a promise to her sister to end breast cancer forever. It is now the global leader of the breast cancer movement, having invested nearly $1.5 billion since inception.

But wearing pink and raising money for research will not be enough to eradicate this disease. Each person must do their individual part by talking about the issue, explaining what to look for and having regular preventative examinations. If you find a lump or feel something just isn’t right, don’t dismiss it. Take action on the side of being cautious.

If there is nothing wrong then you are out nothing, but catching it early can make the difference between life and death. Do it for your loved ones, if nothing else. And don’t think of it as just a women’s disease. Although it makes up less than 1 percent of all cases, men have also died from breast cancer. To me, that is 1 percent too many.

I am one of the fortunate people who succeeded in the fight with cancer in my family, but just the thought of losing my mother still shakes me to my soul. It is a thought no one should ever have to have. I hope everyone will take action by making a donation, participating in a fundraising event, giving items to the cancer center or simply just volunteering your time.

My mother wears a pink bracelet on her wrist with the message: Hope, Strength, Faith and Courage. She says it has helped her many times while dealing with all the treatments and the horrible side effects. I will follow her lead and keep that message close to my heart. I hope for the best, I will be strong when dealing with the unpleasant reality, I have faith that God will protect those who are fighting for their lives and I will have the courage to speak out about the need to find a cure for this disease.

No one should ever have this horrible, disfiguring monster disrupt his or her lives ever again. And although I don’t say it enough, I love you Mom and I am inspired by you.

Sharon Myers is a married mother of two. She is a graduate of Lexington Senior High and received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from East Carolina University.