Most days, I’m able to focus on how grateful I am. Being diagnosed 5 years ago now with breast cancer, successfully completing treatment, and about to embark upon the last leg of this treatment journey by undergoing reconstruction surgery, I am usually able to focus on my blessings. However, because of the challenges I faced while receiving treatment, the empathy for others experiencing a cancer diagnosis and treatment occasionally permeates by being.
Today is one of those days. I picked up my phone this morning and the first thing that popped up was an obituary for and old friend who’d spent the last eight years battling brain cancer. I do not pretend to fathom the pain, discomfort, and struggles he faced throughout that time. But I do know that more than anything, he was fighting with all that he had to make it until his son graduated from high school…that didn’t happen.
I lost a dear friend to cancer over 10 years ago. What started as pain in her arm quickly became a nightmare of chemo attempts, reactions, and complications. She was so full of life and ready to embark on new journeys, but her adventure was cut short, another life ending entirely too soon.
I lost another friend from high school a couple of years ago. Because I’d fought breast cancer, she thought our battles were the same, and that she just needed to stay positive. She was fighting brain cancer that had progressed to the point that she was suffering severe symptoms at diagnosis. Her body was only able to withstand one round of chemo. She only lived a few more months. She was so brave.
My sweet Daddy was diagnosed three years ago with Stage 4 Lung Cancer, with metastasis to the brain. He passed peacefully 11 days later, with the assistance of hospice. Although the physical process was deeply maddening to watch, I never left his side. The beauty of those eleven days with him tops my list of precious spiritual experiences on this earth.
What I went through with breast cancer was not anything I would wish on one more human being. However, there is no comparison to the bravery and grace displayed by each of these precious souls who ultimately lost the battle against the enemy that is cancer.
This is why I reject the term “Survivor”, as it somehow indicates that I did something right or better than those we’ve lost. I was lucky that my body could withstand the toxic treatment. We are all warriors, fighting similar, yet such uniquely different battles.
The fact that we have a Pink month dedicated specifically to breast cancer makes me sick. I would love to see the start of an #antipink movement, and recognize that cancer is the enemy, in every form and at every stage. Regardless of the treatment, side effects, and end result, pieces of our lives are being stolen. After all, statistics dictate that we will all know someone who is affected by this disease at some point in our lifetime. It is our responsibility to hold one another up, walk arm in arm, and love one other through every stage of the process. Hope and peace do not discriminate, neither should we in our support of one another.