On a flight back from New York in late April 2013; I reflected on the week I just spent with my mother and my sisters Sonia and Sharon. But my reflection was mostly on Sharon, the sister I followed as a sibling. As we grew Sharon was known as a tomboy because she could ride, climb, and throw rocks as good as any boy in the community. Sharon’s haughty laughs lighted up her surroundings and forced you to look in her direction. Her subsequent smile would complete the refreshing look of a young dark and lovely black woman. That was my sister.
I also reflected painfully on the difficulty I noticed, Sharon had breathing. She would breathe short breaths, wince as though she wanted to cry, then breathe again. Her breast cancer had metastasized into her lungs. I acted on my reflections at that moment and called my eldest sister Sonia who I had just left at Sharon’s home with my mom. I said to Sonia, “I don’t like what I saw in Sharon.” Sonia knew exactly what I meant. She agreed and we both cried together for a while on the phone. Two weeks later in early May, we lost Sharon, she died in mom’s arms.
Each year since 2013, I celebrate three significant occasions in the remembrance of Sharon Gilling: the date of her birth, the date of her death, and the month of October, Breast Cancer Awareness month.
This month, October 2020, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I encourage women everywhere to notice changes in their bodies, have early discussions with medical professionals and get checked. I encourage men everywhere to encourage the women in their lives to get checked. This is advice I wish I had the knowledge and awareness to give and emphasize to my sister Sharon years ago. I now know, from personal experience, that early detection makes a big difference between living or dying. I miss you every day Wawam (my boyhood nickname for Sharon.)
For more information about breast cancer awareness visit: