As a breast cancer survivor (I marked my one year anniversary on June 19) I should probably be wearing pink and dancing in the streets for Breast Cancer Awareness Month but I have mixed feelings. Believe me I am grateful to be alive and thrilled that I received such amazing care from my oncologists to my plastic surgeon to my medical surgeon — without them I wouldn’t have been so well taken care of and honestly, so well “put back together.”
I am also grateful there is a month where awareness is heightened so it stays front and center in the minds of politicians and medical professionals that are seeking a cure.
Any woman (or perhaps it’s just me) who goes in for a routine mammogram and hears the words, “We think you have cancer. You need to have a biopsy.” Who then goes through rounds of testing and then is faced with the idea of losing both breasts, the idea of being “a real” woman again is paramount. Yes, I may have defined myself by my breasts — rightly or wrongly, I loved them. I am growing to love my “new ones” especially now that I have received my tattoos and am looking even more like “a real woman.”
I hate that breast cancer took away my feeling of immortality. My sense of invincibility. I dread the quarterly visits to oncologists and find it hard to take a breath when I’m home waiting to hear the results of a medical test — any medical test.
I truly can’t put my finger on why I am so iffy about Breast Cancer Awareness month. Is it because I don’t want to be reminded all month long about everything I’ve gone through and how hard it was — and some days still is — to have come out the other side? Is it because I think it shouldn’t be a month long “celebration” but a monthly, weekly, daily even acknowledgement of those who are surviving, struggling to survive and who have lost their valiant battles?
Is it because on some days I can almost (until I look in the mirror) forget that I had cancer — that I have that always-in-the-back-of-my-mind that I HAD cancer and it could come back? True, I could go out and get hit by a bus but believe me your mindset changes once you’ve received a diagnosis. Every headache, hangnail or ache or pain has your mind racing as to whether it’s a new cancer — maybe not for all cancer survivors, but for me it does.
Should I be announcing to the world, during October, “I am a cancer survivor. Celebrate me?” I don’t know how to feel, how to act or react. Should I just nod and smile when I see all of the “celebrations” going on? I don’t know. I don’t know how long it will take me to even have a good answer — another year? a decade? a lifetime?
Believe me I do rejoice in every triumph my fellow Facebook Booby Buddies achieve, every milestone met, every chemo treatment wrap up, every radiation round completed and I cry when we lose a member. Maybe that’s where I need to be — with those who’ve been there, not those who have designated October as the one month out of the year to think about it and talk about it. Maybe I will know more once the month has ended.