Sunday, March 24, 2013


The Big "C"
The "C" word

No matter how you put it, cancer sucks.  There is no way around it.  It seems that I am reminded of this more and more every day--especially of late.


Is it because I am getting "increasingly more mature" (ie. getting older)?  

I guess it could be.  As we approach our 50's that is when our bodies start to fail.  Why does it seem to me that I feel healthier than I did in my 30's?  I am conscious about what I put in my body, and I exercise.  So do most of those around me.  Doesn't diet and exercise help to prevent cancer?   My hope is that it will prevent a recurrence for me.  So why hasn't it for those around me?

 Is it because I have surrounded myself by those fighting for a cure?  

Well, that makes sense too.  Before I was diagnosed, I only knew of two people who had cancer.  One was my best friend's dad, and the other was a family friend.  Back then, they were both considered "older" to me.  Through my affiliation with Komen and TWP, I often feel surrounded by cancer.  On a daily basis I am either hearing an update on someone's battle, or I am being asked to say an extra prayer for a friend in need.  The more people you know with cancer is relative to the amount of people you know.  I guess I could just know a lot of people.  Because of what I experienced, maybe I am more empathetic to the situations around me.  I wonder if I would be the same way if my life had been different.  I would like to think that I would still be trying to make a difference, but I don't know. 

Is it because years ago we never talked about it?  

Quite possibly so.  As a kid, do you ever remember your parents saying the word "cancer?"  Not in my house, and my parents are young.  It was that someone was very sick.  Never even mind the word "breast."  Maybe it is that cancer was just as rampant, but people couldn't make themselves say the words because the unknown beast was just too scary to them.  

Is it because we have the advanced technology to know that someone has cancer?

I'm sure that is part of it.  The survival rates for all types of cancer have increased over the years, especially in the last five.  If it hadn't been for ultrasound, I may not have known I had cancer when I did.  I was one of the ones whose mammogram came back clear.  Luckily for me, I had a doctor who requested more testing.  If it had been 10-15 years earlier, would I be a seven year survivor?  Maybe not.  When a woman is diagnosed with early stage breast cancer, she has a 90-95% five year survival rate.  When I look at that in teacher terms, that's an "A." Years ago, maybe that person would have died.  Now they are surviving, and many are living life as if nothing ever happened.  They wear their survivorship on their sleeve, like a badge of honor.  They have faced the enemy, and won the battle.   

Looking at the broader picture, I guess that we recognize that there is so much cancer because of all the aforementioned reasons.  Putting all these reasons together does not make it any more bearable.   Each and every time I hear of someone starting their fight against cancer, or having a set back as the result of a chemo regimen not working, I am just as affected as I was the time before; however, there are times when it hits me like a punch in the face.  This is one of those times.  

Then I think about how much more fulfilling my life has become because of cancer.  Part of the cancer battle is remaining positive--mind over matter.  I like to think I am a better person because of cancer.

I look at Tina.  She has shown so much fortitude and courage.  She stayed strong throughout Emma's battle, ensuring that her daughter would too, and never gave up hope.  I know that each day must be a struggle for her.  She has now taken her experience and is giving back to the children of MGH by donating Pillow Pets and Nooks.  She was even named to Mass General's prestigious list--"The One Hundred" as one of the volunteers whose "diligence, philanthropy and passion have helped advance the fight against cancer."  I am so happy that she will be honored at this exclusive event. 

Of course there is Bridget, who is now Komen's face of breast cancer.  She has inspired hope in so many women all around the country with her words and her heart.  I believe that she will continue to make a difference in years to come.  She will be leaving her legacy.  I can't imagine what my 3-Day experience would have been like without meeting her.  Life is so not fair.

But Maurine is in my heart most of all these days.  Like B, she inspires, but I just can't explain Mo to you if you haven't met her.  She is one of a kind.  Her infectious sense of humor brings a chuckle to all those she encounters.  When I think of the funniest moments with TWP, you can bet that Mo is in 90% of them, like when she tells the story of her prosthesis falling out of her bathing suit and floating in the water or when she says, "Next year I'm going to do this walk on a bicycle" in our video.  Her uplifting spirit and zest for life are contagious.  No matter how increasingly difficult her battle is becoming, she continues to bring a smile to those around her.

As many of us have said, time and time again, yes, cancer truly sucks.  We cannot let it take control.  We cannot just sit back and watch it consume those surrounding us.  We must take a lesson from those fighting this battle.  We need to smile, look cancer in the face, and say, "F-YOU!"  


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