If you are just stopping in, this is the twenty ninth post in my 31 Day Series: I Wear Pink. I was diagnosed with breast cancer on February 18, 2009. This series is about my journey with breast cancer. You can find the previous posts here.
Day 29: It's Personal
Writing about my journey with breast cancer has been more difficult than I had thought it would be. It's not that a person forgets the overwhelming feelings, but the distance of a few years calms them somewhat. There are some things that I have considered whether to include or not because they are not easy to say. Most people were supportive, prayerful, and considerate. There were however, a few things that were said to me, that were said thoughtlessly or out of curiosity, but without consideration.A person with cancer needs support, comfort, and sometimes a shoulder to cry on. We don't need to be told that someone's sisters-cousins-neighbors-mother has it worse. There is always someone who has it worse. Always. In almost every life situation, there will be someone who is worse off then you. But to hear this when you are going to radiation treatments every day for six weeks, does not help you to feel better. In fact, then you feel even worse about complaining about being burnt, or tired, or sad. Breast cancer is a life threatening disease. Cancer is hard.
A dear older lady, and by older I mean older than me, informed me that she knew exactly what I was going through, because two of her husbands' sisters died of breast cancer. Then she went on to say that at least I knew how I was going to die. Ouch! I thought I was making a plan for living.
More than one person shared with me that if they had cancer, they would just let it take its course and not do anything too extreme like chemo or radiation. Really? It's easy to say what you might do when you do not have cancer. I pray that they never have to make a choice between such extreme measures or dying. People with cancer make the best decisions they can and then live with the results. Radiation and chemo do have risks, but they have helped many people to survive that would not be here now.
There were people who said, "I couldn't handle having cancer." Well, I didn't really have a choice. You don't always get problems that you can handle. But I can assure you that God does walk with you through them and give you friends to help carry the load.
Then there were the, "I can't wait to see how God uses this" crowd. God can teach others a lesson without giving me cancer. We live in a fallen world. Cancer is part of that.
When a person gets breast cancer, people are curious. Believe me, my breasts had never caused such a sensation my whole life - until I had cancer. Then the girls became kind of public property. There was no question too personal in people's quests to satisfy their curiosity. They wonder if they can tell by looking which side the cancer was on. (There are more breast cancers on the left side than the right.) They wondered if I had "only" a lumpectomy, a mastectomy, or breast reconstruction. I had a lumpectomy. A wise nurse shared with me. "It's not 'only' a lumpectomy. Lumpectomy is a comfort word. You had a partial mastectomy."
Scars - Yup, I have them. I have seen worse. I have seen better. I can live with mine. If you are really curious, google breast cancer survivor images. You will see beautiful women sharing their scars. I am not one of them, but I applaud their bravery.
I did not ask you about your sex life. Don't ask me about mine. My husband and I appreciate each other, thank you.
What a person with breast cancer wants to hear is that you'll be there for her and her family. You'll be there in good times and bad. That you'll help her get through it. That you will be there to celebrate the good days and that you'll be with her when she's discouraged and in pain. Unless you have had breast cancer, you don't really know how she feels, don't tell her you do. It is okay not to say anything at all. Instead offer the comfort of your presence, a hug, or a shoulder to lean on. Listen. Listen to her feelings, her doubts, and her fears.
Finally, don't forget the husband in all of this. He is worried and scared. He is being a caregiver and a comforter. When a family member has cancer, the family is living with it, too. Cancer is hard on everyone. All of the things that I suggested for the person with cancer apply for their family, too. They also need love and support.
Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer. ~ Psalm 19:14