If incoming freshmen were polled about their reasons for coming to Baylor, they probably would mention the University's academics, strong Christian influences and fellow students. These were all reasons that I chose, early in my senior year of high school, to come to Baylor. But by the spring of that year, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and I no longer felt confident about my decision.
Throughout the next four months, my father, three sisters and I watched my mother endure more pain and suffering than I thought anyone could take. It was so hard, knowing what she was going through and not being able to do anything about it -- and I was planning to travel 2,000 miles away to go to school. It seemed to me that by picking up and moving to college, I would be communicating that I didn't care about and love my mother. But she encouraged me to go, and so after that summer, I was on my way.
It was hard leaving my mother while she was still fighting the disease. Not being able to see everything that was going on made me feel helpless, so the phone was my way of staying connected. She continued to endure chemotherapy and radiation, and by late fall, the doctors had removed all the cancer from her body. Then, we had to wait and see if it would come back. Thankfully, she now has been cancer-free for more than three years.
Looking back, my mother was wise to encourage me to move on to Baylor. My time here has helped develop and shape who I am, and now I want to use my experience to help defeat this disease. So, in June, I will begin a 2,100-mile hike along the Appalachian Trail with two other friends to raise money and awareness for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
The most important message that can be spread about breast cancer is the value of early detection -- the reason my mother is still alive today. Women over age 40 should have a mammogram and clinical breast exam every year and do a self-exam every month. This year, there will be more than 200,000 cases of breast cancer and about 40,000 women -- mothers, wives, sisters and daughters -- will die from the disease.
Some people may wonder why a guy would care about a disease affecting mostly women. But how can I be close to something so terrible and not work to defeat it? I am a co-survivor. Although I didn't battle the disease myself, I was right beside someone who did, and I don't want my three sisters or any other woman and her family to have to go through it.
Anderson is a senior business entrepreneurship and real estate major from Ada, Mich. For more information about his hike to raise monies for breast-cancer research, visit his Web site at www.hike4thecure.com.