Faculty voice:

Mary Smania: From the eyes of a child

Oct. 5, 2016

Mary Smania, family nurse practitioner and assistant professor of health programs in the College of Nursing, is making a difference in the fight against breast cancer by reducing the barriers to care for men and women who cannot afford life-saving services. In observance of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, she writes about her “Pink Impact Passion Perspective” and her “why.” Learn more about breast health resources by visiting the Pink Impact Breast Care Services at the MSU Facebook page.

Summers in Michigan with my Grandma Lou were sparklers, homemade popsicles, eating her special dish “long b-sghetti” and bicycle rides.  In addition to being my grandma, she was a talented seamstress with a flair for fashion. She always wore beautiful dresses and her dark wavy hair was pulled back in a stylish French twist.

I was too young to remember her first breast diagnosis but when I was 12 years old she had her second diagnosis of breast cancer affecting her second breast.  She had already been through one radical mastectomy and axillary node dissection, chemotherapy and radiation. Now she had to endure this procedure a second time.

Her diagnoses and treatment were in the late ‘60s and ‘70s, which meant that she had radical mastectomy surgeries removing all the breast tissue and muscles in the chest. All this treatment was without reconstruction or prosthesis options – which are mandated now. 

It was difficult to see her scars as she used rags to fill her bra as a sort of prosthesis. Chemotherapy had caused her beautiful long, dark, wavy hair to fall out – replaced by a wig. Grandma Lou took all this in stride not letting this affect her outlook on life or beauty. However, the cancer eventually metastasized to her liver and took her from us. 

Patient advocacy, education and taking care of women at one of the most vulnerable points in their life drive my motivation. This is my why!