By RAY QUIROGA
South Padre Parade
Most of my teenage years were spent living under my grandmother’s rule.
One day, while at school, my grandma took a tumble in the backyard and broke her shoulder and hip.
After half an hour on the ground, she managed to lift herself up, call on a neighbor (her best friend) to help her dress and take her to the ER.
In our family – in our culture, really – it was looked upon as a weakness to ask for help, even to be sick, for that matter.
In the moment our neighbor helped my grandmother dust herself off and undress, my grandmother unveiled a family secret she kept from everybody outside of our clan for well over a decade – both her breasts had been surgically removed by doctor’s orders.
Both women, as the story was later told to me, embraced and cried as the family secret was a secret no more. “But, why (didn’t you tell me)?” our neighbor desperately asked my grandmother. My grandma just bowed her head in shame and turned away in tears. “I don’t know,” was all she could muster.
Years after my grandfather’s death, his ghost still haunted us. His wish that we never speak of my grandmother’s double mastectomy was still respected long after his soul’s departure from this earth.
I’m known to be quite cynical sometimes. As a journalist, I guess that trait helps. Years ago, I was asked to report on a Walk for Women event, and I accepted, although, in my mind I was thinking, “Wouldn’t a female reporter be more equipped for this assignment.”
But as I produced what are known as advance pieces prior to the event, I began to learn and readers began to show their appreciation for the effort. “Love that picture you took!” One woman said. I even got a thumbs up from a gentleman who I’d known and respected for a long period of time; he even shared his story regarding his wife who had a mastectomy at a young age.
It was then that I realized that none of my opinions, whether based in fact or fiction, mattered. The fact was that the event mattered to these people, and that was important enough. The Walk, the pink, the fact that October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month symbolizes loss for some, victory for others, resilience, hope and strength for many more.
I’m happy to say that cancer never got the best of my grandmother, who lived many years thereafter and had the opportunity to meet my children before her death.
God bless you all, and I hope to see you at this year’s Walk for Women on South Padre Island!
Of course, it’s going to be a heck of a weekend with not only the Walk for Women events which include a fishing tourney, but also the incredible, rejuvenated, Sand Castle Days out at Clayton’s!
Oh yeah! We also have the results of that little thing we call the Beach Bar Beat Bartender Competition on pages 10-11. Read how that went down!