When doctors diagnosed Mary Alyce Rogers of Westhampton with Stage 1 breast cancer at 45, her children were turning 3 and 5. “I was in a panic because my greatest fear was leaving my children without a mother,” she recalls. “Most people I knew who had cancer died from it.”
Mary Alyce discussed her diagnosis with a close friend. “He encouraged me to be mindful of my thoughts and words, to avoid saying ‘My cancer’ and to use ‘the cancer’” says Rogers, now 54. ”He helped me understand it was temporary.”
She was still unsure about how to break the news to her children. A social worker suggested she use the word “cancer” because children are not afraid of the word cancer, adults are. “If the kids had heard it [the diagnosis] from someone else, they might have thought the worst because it didn’t come from me,” says Rogers, herself a social worker.
Before her lumpectomy in June 2007, Rogers told her children that she had cancer and explained that it was like an apple that has a rotten part that needs to be cut out so that the rest of the apple doesn’t turn that way. “We talked about what it would be like when I came home from the hospital. I think they were relieved because they knew what to expect.”
Since that day, breast cancer awareness has been a family affair. In the years since Rogers joined a support group sponsored by the Coalition for Women’s Cancers at Southampton Hospital where she and her husband and their two children volunteer. ’ It’s something we do together as a family,” she says. “My kids grew up with this and know that cancer doesn’t always have to be so scary.”