Screw Breast Cancer!
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. How can you ignore the not-so-subtle pink reminders from magazines, airlines, posters, fundraisers and even NFL teams? Year after year, this is the month to pay more attention than normal to this terrible disease. And while I see and hear all the indications to do something to support those struck by breast cancer, admittedly this is the first year I have. That’s because, this year, this very month, ironically, one of my best friends, a woman who has been supporting me since the day I was born, my godmother – my aunt – was diagnosed with breast cancer.
While I am always moved by stories of women’s struggles and heroic recoveries, I don’t know how I’m going to get through this blog without covering the screen in tears. It’s somehow different when this horrid disease strikes someone you care about so deeply.
You see, I am not familiar with life-threatening disease or even death. I understand with great clarity how fortunate I am to never have dealt with the untimely mortality of someone very close to me. The only grandparent I really knew passed less than a year ago and she was 91. She was ready to go. I was fortunate to spend some of her final hours caressing her face, holding her hand and telling her how much I love her. It didn’t stop the tears, but I was prepared. I’m not prepared for my aunt to leave. It’s certainly not her time. It can’t be. She’s healthy, active, strong, in more ways than one, and well – all-around amazing. I know I’m not the only one who feels or has felt the same about someone they love. And like millions of other people, I wish I could do something to make the cancer disappear, just go away. Even take it for her. I suppose it’s like being in love, being abused or having a broken heart. People can describe it to you with the most vivid blissful or horrid descriptions, but until it’s something that affects you personally, you really only have an IDEA of what it means. How it feels. Which is why, I suppose, I used to casually walk by the donation boxes, skim the articles and feel just a twinge of sadness when I heard stories of victims of breast cancer.
My experience of breast cancer awareness month is now dramatically different. I will always remember 2013 as the year I began Googling breast cancer, reading articles outlining the advancements in research and technology with acute attention, and dropping every dollar I could into a box with a little pink ribbon on it. I see pink everywhere now and seek comfort from anyone who has a loved one diagnosed with cancer … even the pilot on my Delta flight. I’m sure this behavior will continue well beyond this month, because now I realize that breast cancer doesn’t just happen in October. I will want to kick cancer’s ass on November 1 (my aunt’s birthday), November 2, November 3 and every day after that.
Here’s the thing: my aunt is not dying. I have every reason to believe she will beat cancer and be around for many years to come. The doctors caught it early and her treatment options are well-documented with high success rates. I KNOW she will be fine and continue to flourish. I felt it in my meditation. I continue to feel it every day, and not just for the sake of wishful thinking. Statistics, empirical data and amazing technological advancements are on her side. As much faith as I have, it certainly helps that all the facts point to survival.
So why have I found myself crying almost every day since I heard the words “Aunt Dee has breast cancer”? It’s not the cancer. F’ the cancer. I know my aunt is stronger than any disease. However, I’m sure like many others, the thought of my aunt in pain, suffering, hurting, confused, uncertain or sad breaks my heart. I often write about self-empowerment and share tools I have learned and utilized that have helped me grow and change to become a happier, more peaceful person. For all of this, I feel powerless. Helpless. There is nothing I can do, no technique to pull out of the magic hat that will make my aunt’s cancer go away. Or make her pain go away. And that hurts more than anything.
I am not here to offer sage advice such as, “Live like you were dying”, “Tell those you love how much you love them”, “Life is short, live it up!” or any of those other famous words of wisdom. We’ve heard it all before. And we’ll forget it in a week. My aunt gave me the best advice someone could ever give, and I suppose it’s why I wrote this blog.
“Keep up your positive energy & prayers for me and for you too … The best you can do for me right now is to be the best for you … I will get it back many times over!”
With all her strength, my aunt found more to give to me. Ultimately, I just wanted to share her amazing spirit with everyone.