Madonna Honors Her Cancer-Fighting Mother
- Singer Madonna, 63, just got a new tattoo to honor her late mother who died from breast cancer when she was just 5 years old. She also dedicated her 1989 album, Like a Prayer, to her mother.
- Many women develop breast cancer every year, and the disease is the subject of much research. There are many treatment options out there, but treatment paths depend greatly on the specifics of each case.
- Coping with the loss of a loved one to cancer is incredibly challenging, but moving forward with the lessons your loved one shared and remembering you don’t have to forget them to move forward can be a great place to start.
The iconic 63-year-old singer has openly talked about the impact her mother has had on her life – even after her passing. And, now, Madonna is a mother herself to six children: Lourdes Leon, 25, Rocco Ritchie, 21, David Banda, 16, Mercy James, 16, and twins Stelle and Estere Ciccone, 9. All of whom she got tattoos for in 2020.Read More
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“My turn to bleed for my mother,” she wrote in her caption.
In the video itself, she further explains the significance of the tattoo.
“I’m doing this for my mother,” the queen of pop said in the video that showed her bleeding during the tattoo process. “Because when you give birth, what do you do? You bleed. It’s all connected.
“My mother bled for me and so I’m bleeding for her. It’s a family affair.”
Madonna Coping with Her Mother’s Cancer Battle
Madonna’s mom was also named Madonna, Madonna Louise Ciccone. But, sadly, the pop star did not get to spend much time with the woman whose name she bears. Her mother passed away from breast cancer in December 1963, and the death changed a then 5-year-old Madonna forever.
“If she were alive, I would be someone else. I would be a completely different person,” the singer shared in a 1989 interview with Rolling Stone.
Her song Promise to Try is about letting go, and trying not to shape an image of her mother into something she wasn’t.
“It’s about yearning to have her in my life but also about trying to accept the fact that she’s not.” The song appeared on her chart-topping album Like a Prayer, which was dedicated to her late mother.
In a 1989 interview with The Chicago Tribune, she says of her mom’s cancer fight, “I don’t think she ever allowed herself to wallow in the tragedy of her situation. So in that respect, I think she gave me an incredible lesson.”
Understanding Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is a common cancer that has been the subject of much research. Many women develop breast cancer every year, but men can develop this cancer too – though it is more rare, in part, due to the simple fact that they have less breast tissue.
Screening for breast cancer is typically done via mammogram, which looks for lumps in the breast tissue and signs of cancer. And while mammograms aren’t perfect, they are still a great way to begin annual screening. The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends women begin mammogram screening for breast cancer at age 45. Even still, we know that a breast cancer diagnosis can come at any age.
It’s also important to be on top of self breast exams. If you ever feel a lump in your breast, it’s important to be vigilant and speak with your doctor. Voicing your concerns as soon as you have them can lead to earlier cancer detection which, in turn, can lead to better outcomes.
There are many treatment options for people with breast cancer, but treatment depends greatly on the specifics of each case. Identifying these specifics means looking into whether the cancerous cells have certain receptors. These receptors – the estrogen receptor, the progesterone receptor and the HER2 receptor – can help identify the unique features of the cancer and help personalize treatment.
“These receptors, I like to imagine them like little hands on the outside of the cell, they can grab hold of what we call ligands, and these ligands are essentially the hormones that may be circulating in the bloodstream that can then be pulled into this cancer cell and used as a fertilizer, as growth support for the cells,” Dr. Elizabeth Comen, a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, told SurvivorNet in a previous interview.
One example of a type of ligand that can stimulate a cancer cell is the hormone estrogen, hence why an estrogen receptor positive breast cancer will grow when stimulated by estrogen. For these cases, your doctor may offer treatment that specifically targets the estrogen receptor. But for HER2 positive breast cancers, therapies that uniquely target the HER2 receptor may be the most beneficial.
Moving Forward after the Loss of a Loved One to Cancer
Coping after the loss of a loved one to cancer is never going to be an easy journey. But remembering all the wonderful ways your loved one enriched your life and moving on from there can be such a powerful way to move forward.
In a previous interview with SurvivorNet, Caleb Farley talked about his mother’s battle with breast cancer and how he opted out of his position as a cornerback for the Virginia Tech Hokies due to COVID-19 concerns. Having lost his mom to breast cancer in 2018, he knew he wanted to be extra careful during the pandemic.
Farley announced the news of his opt-out in an Instagram video saying, in part, “I cannot afford to lose another parent or loved one… Though the competitor in me badly wants to play this season, I cannot ignore what’s going on in my heart, and I must make the decision that brings me the most peace.”
Farley trained for the NFL draft instead of playing for Virginia Tech, and his efforts paid off. He was selected by the Tennessee Titans as the number 22 overall pick in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft.
Farley’s mother fought two battles with cancer. He watched as she went through multiple rounds of chemotherapy while still working and taking care of her family. Although his “superhero” mother will not get to see him play in the NFL, Farley will take many lessons he learned from her and apply them to whatever challenges he faces in life moving forward.
“My mother raised me to be very religious, very God-conscious. That’s been everything to me, and my life. That’s like the building blocks of my, of my life,” Farley told SurvivorNet. “Anything that’s happened to me, any adversity, any good times, any bad times, I’ve always kind of stood on that rock of faith. I can’t thank her enough for how she raised me and because it was her who gave me all of that, um, spiritually, she, she just filled my heart with love and joy. I’ve had a happy life because of her.”
Doug Wendt also lost a loved one to cancer. He told SurvivorNet that after losing his wife, Alice, to a two-year battle with ovarian cancer, he’ll never really get over losing her, but he does hope to move forward.
“We’re never gonna move on, I don’t even think I want to move on, but I do want to move forward,” Doug said. “That’s an important distinction and I encourage anybody who goes through this journey as a caregiver and then has to face loss, to think very carefully about how to move forward.”
Contributing: Anne McCarthy