Margaret Hurley grew up in Elkhart, Ind., surrounded by 10 brothers and sisters. After graduating high school, she married Ron Hurley and moved across the country as her husband finished a deployment in the Air Force. Two sons and a daughter later, Margaret and her husband settled in Marietta, Ga., where Ron served as an airline pilot and Margaret, a stay-at-home mother.
When her husband’s job as an airline pilot went south, Margaret immediately got to work as a high school janitor to support her family and her daughter’s dreams of earning a college degree.
Margaret has become known for her hard work, outrageous sense of humor and her lively, lovable personality and stubbornness.
To me, Margaret Hurley is Grandma Maggie.
My grandmother, like any grandmother, spoiled me as a child and never let me leave her house without a good laugh and a full stomach. She served me ice cream for breakfast and taught me fun games. She helped build my character, teaching me how to show my intentions through action and work hard without the smallest complaint slipping my tongue.
In 2017, my grandma was diagnosed with breast cancer and, after a long battle, entered remission. Last year, her cancer returned. This time stage 4.
Since her diagnosis in 2017, I’ve been introduced to the side of Breast Cancer Awareness Month that makes my heart ache not only every October…but every day. Since October has started and the movement of breast cancer awareness has again come to its annual forefront, I can’t help but think about what this month represents.
Is breast cancer awareness simply a time when pink ribbons, bracelets and football uniforms come out?
Breast cancer awareness is often unsung because it has become so effectively integrated into our lives. The movement not only funds efforts for the research and treatment that goes into the hundreds of thousands of Americans diagnosed a year but also gives the families of those diagnosed a sense of support.
While my grandmother continues to battle, this month of awareness has granted me, my family and everyone involved in Margaret’s life a community. When a beloved family member is diagnosed, October becomes more than just a symbolic gesture of awareness. A new, undeniably harsh reality forces families to adapt, to support one another through an inevitable series of ebbs and flows.
I urge those that haven’t been affected by breast cancer in one way or another to reach out. Reach out to families, those who are diagnosed and your community. Every person with breast cancer is more than a diagnosis. They have a story. Margaret has a story. Only when those stories are told can our society begin understanding the depth of people’s lives and situations.
I’m genuinely thankful for my grandmother and many other family members battling cancer. Every October since 2017, I am reminded that it is a blessing to all of us that there is a month meant to commemorate and spread awareness towards such a prevalent issue.
David Ramsey is a sophomore majoring in integrated marketing communications from Madison Miss.