Last night, I read a very self-aware, probing article on Huffington Post, “The Most Important Question You Can Ask Yourself Today.” Please go read it. It is a good progression from my post about our holes. The article poses the question, “What are you willing to struggle for?” “What are you willing to experience pain for?”
I love this. We all want happiness, health, wealth, a good job, great family…but are you willing to truly fight for it? Will you make the tough sacrifices to achieve them? That’s the dividing line. If you’re not willing to sweat and diet, you’re not going to get the enviable body. If you don’t put in the long, grueling hours, you won’t make it to the top of your profession. So, what are you willing to struggle for?
For those of us that are parents, we sacrifice for our children. Our bodies are not only stretched to all creation and back during pregnancy, but afterwards, we are kicked, poked, pulled, scratched, tugged, hit, slapped…all in the name of keeping our children happy. We give up our own lives and goals to help them achieve theirs. And we do it gladly. This is the easy answer to the question posed. But what else? What means so much to us that we fight?
With BRCA and HBOC, every decision is hard-fought. We willing experience the pain to survive. Clinical trials, surgeries, chemo, radiation, experimental drugs…we do these things to live…for ourselves, our children, our families. We do it to fight for the future and to help others. We struggle for the chance to breathe each breath.
Cancer changes you. It brings your life into sharp focus. Since stepping into this world of cancer, my answers to these questions are different than they would have been before. That doesn’t mean my answers are more noble or important now, they are just different. Priorities change when you see your mortality in the mirror each morning. Frankly, I miss the woman, who would have answered those questions confidently and without hesitation — I would have given you a numbered, color-coded list of my pain-worthy goals. There would have been many of them. Now? Not so much. My list is small, comprised more of faces than items. I would give any body part, walk though fire, sacrifice everything for their happiness. I would, gladly, struggle each day to find a cure for cancer because my son and nieces depend upon it. These are my answers now. These are the things that matter to me now.
So, why do you fight? What is worth the pain to you?
I keep forgetting to link to this, but it’s so important: there is a new BRCA group on facebook for MEN! Please check it out, if you are interested. There aren’t many like it. Facebook.
Who needs a book club, when there’s a gene club? 23 and Me.
Karuna Jagger’s open letter to congress: Your Chemical Safety Improvement Act isn’t good enough! Huffington Post.
I took a few days off to deal with some new health problems. I’m back now, though, and when I learn more, I will be happy to share.
There was a great discussion on twitter last night, put together by @sloan_kettering, about hereditary cancer. I’ll post the highlights a little later, but highly encourage you to check out the full #CancerSmart discussion, yourself.
I am writing this opening from my phone, but will be posting as soon as I get to my computer. Thanks for your patience.
Have a great day!
Portraits of Previvors and Survivors. Beautiful. Time Magazine.
Eating clean for your health. Huffington Post.
Foods every breast cancer survivor should know about. CNN.
Fighting inflammation with food. Health Central.
The “war on cancer” hasn’t gotten us very far. New York Times.
There is no cure and it’s time to get pissed off about it! Act with Love.
Love this girl and her blog. Well said, Andrea. Collaboration is the new competition. Brave Bosom.
This woman needs to be my new best friend. Now. She is awesome. I wanted to send everyone a little smile today, and I can think of no better way to do it, then posting this video. Deborah Cohen went in for her mastectomy and had a dance party with her surgical team. I love it. And I love the willingness of the medical staff to do this. Dancing in the face of fear…I wish we all had such strength. Check out the Huffington Post article for more on this amazing video. Otherwise, just hit play and enjoy. No other comments are needed.
We are stronger than we know. Fear and circumstance knock us down, but we are resilient. The world continues to move around us and, though we are surprised and spiteful of this constancy, we move along with it. That, in itself, is strength: the ability to continue breathing, despite the holes in our lives, carved out by loss. We carry on.
Strength does not always mean fight. It does not mean a lack of tears or terror. It means continuing to live despite the loss, and fear, and hurt. Despite the holes. It is drawing courage from the experience. It is a refusal to stop breathing.
I have added a few new holes to my heart this year. One was added this weekend. Each time, I crumble quietly, in isolation. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I panicked. I collapsed. But there were decisions to be made…other people to comfort…life continued. Curling up in the fetal position, in a cave somewhere, wasn’t an option (I checked). What are our options? We make our decisions. We continue to live. We carry on.
Getting diagnosed with a BRCA mutation, or cancer, drops you to your knees. But you are more powerful than you think. You will move on. You will live. It may not seem like it, but you will. You have reserves of strength you never knew possible. You will choose your path — one decision at a time. You will pick yourself up and keep walking.
It never ceases to amaze me what might and courage can be found in this community. It is not always the in-your-face kind. Sometimes, it is quiet. It is the will to carry on. And it isn’t just strength of the individual, but of the community. When you can’t find the will to walk on your own, we are here to pick you up and carry you. We are not fazed by the holes, as we have them too.
Find your power in your hurt. Those holes can breed courage. Define yourself by this, not by those damn BRCA genes or tumors. The wounds we suffer are not who we are. We are the strength. We are the stubborn refusal to yield. We are the hands that help others walk. Define yourself by these qualities, not by the holes. The holes may remain, but we will carry on, as THAT is who we are.
Happy veteran’s day! Thank you to all the men and women who serve and make our country great. Thank you, also, to the military families, who sacrifice so much.
Sorry for the short column on Friday. I posted an article about pregnancy, BRCA, and Lauryn Hill, Saturday. If you missed it, scroll down.
Today’s theme, if there is one, is strength. We have a video coming your way that is, in my opinion, the epitome of courage and strength. I spoke with a newly diagnosed woman this weekend. She didn’t know what a BRCA gene was until a few months ago, and now, not only does she have the gene mutation, she has breast cancer. No one in her family has had cancer. She was blind-sided. The strength she is demonstrating, by not collapsing under the weight of the diagnosis, is inspiring. Sometimes that’s all you can do, just keep breathing. Keep breathing and living. That, in itself, is strength.
If there is anything YOU want to read about (or write about) here on BRCA World, please let me know. We are a community that is stronger together. It’s one of the biggest blessings in my diagnosis, that I have found all of you. We stand together and fight together.