WARNING: CONTAINS PHOTO AND SUBJECT MATTER THAT MAY MAKE YOU SQUIRM IN DISCOMFORT. FOR THIS REASON, I AM POSTING THE PHOTO AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE. I AM COMPLETELY SERIOUS.
What you are about to see is nothing. It is, in fact, only the tip of the iceberg (pardon the pun). I have written many serious articles about breast cancer, and mixed them up with stories of reindeer humping and dog massages, because life doesn’t always have to be heavy, after all. But today I am back to…take a guess….breast cancer. Can everyone say BREAST CANCER?? Makes ya squirm a little doesn’t it?
But no worries, it is not really real, you won’t get it; only other people get it. Okay, I lie. Anyone can get it, and until it happens to you, or your wife, or sister or mother or cousin or best friend….it is nothing more than a pretty pink ribbon used to make money by corporations like Kentucky Fried Chicken. Don’t worry, greasy chicken doesn’t cause cancer, only heart attacks; although the stress hormones the chickens produce while being encapsulated in inhumane cages may be passed on to us once we consume the product, which could in fact cause cancer. Nah, I’m kidding. That’s a dang hippie liberal talking. Oh wait, I am a dang hippie liberal. One with breast cancer. But I digress, I still eat chicken. Only I'd be more drawn to eating a pinkwashed* chicken.
Am I scared? You bet I am. It wasn’t supposed to happen to me. I wasn’t supposed to find out one week after my 50th birthday that my love of life and friends and family isn’t necessarily going to last forever. What a cruel joke…and right after my birthday. We are all mortal.
The worst part is, and I think those of you that know me will agree….I don’t know who I am anymore. I am angry and scared and frustrated, in between bouts of joy and laughter and fantasizing about the fact that I have never run naked through the streets of San Ramon. And maybe I should because wouldn’t that be funny as hell to run through the streets of my cookie cutter neighborhood without any clothes on? I never wanted to streak, but maybe I do now. I mean, what are they going to do? Take part of my boob away? http://youtu.be/xUIu03s3oNY
And yet, I have such abhorrence toward my own feelings because, how dare I complain when I am only a Stage 1? What is the loss of a nipple compared to the loss of a breast – or both breasts?? Add an abundance of guilt for the self-pity to my overwhelming fears and you have a mixed up emotional 50 year old that’s supposed to know how to deal. But here's what you probably don't know. Breast cancer isn’t really all about the breasts. Most people don’t know that.
“They can take mine and give me bigger ones!” I’ve been told by the unscathed, the innocent who have not been held captive or taken victim by this ugly disease. No, breast cancer is having a heavy lead frying pan hit you over the head at 60 miles per hour while you crawl to the phone to call 911; only you can’t find the phone. It's about a nightmare that doesn't let you wake up. It's about trying to find a ray of sun in a storm. It is about hours of reading and re-reading your pathology report, only to find a month after your successful “breast conservation surgery” that you in fact had a lymphovascular invasion in your tumor, which you spend hours researching until it is 2:00 a.m. and you are begging your brain to shut off. It is about waking up in the morning exhausted and then crying when you hear a song that reminds you of a happier time, when mortality wasn’t in your face. It’s about looking at your children and knowing they still need you around, not according to five or ten year statistics, but in twenty years when they desperately need you to give them advice while raising their own children, because you will be grandma and that counts for more than you could ever know. Stage 1 doesn’t mean you have struck a home run, it only means you have more time to figure out how to keep it from turning into Stage 4.
I should be grateful, which I am in between bouts of hysterical laughter for no reason at all, which no one should ever have to witness, tears that come from a place so deep in the gut that I never knew existed, and love that is so passionate I want to squeeze it like Lennie did to the puppy in Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men.”
Breast cancer has made me crazy. In some ways, I like myself so much more because of the enlightenment and the connection I feel to all that is kind and beautiful. In other ways, I have become ugly, obsessed, angry, and hateful. Basking in pity parties is part of that ride. I know this will pass in time, I know in the recess of my soul what I and so many other women are capable of achieving during our most trying of times.
Sweet Dreams and Always GOOD Dreams,
"...Komen has also been caught up in the controversy over "pinkwashing"—the use of breast cancer and the pink ribbon by corporate marketers, especially to promote products that might be unhealthful—in return for a donation to the cause." ( Stacie, Stukin (2006-10-08). "Pink Ribbon Promises". TIME. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1543947-1,00.html. Retrieved 2007-04-23.)