It’s that time of the year again when we see pink ribbons everywhere. God, I hate it. I know most people mean well, but I still hate it. It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but I’m painfully aware of this disease every day of my life. I see cute little sayings like “Save the Boobies” and “Save the Tatas,” and trends like posting your bra color on Facebook. I know people think they’re doing the right thing, but to me it’s like a slap in the face.
I feel like the people who are most “aware” in October are the manufacturers that sell these products and send a few percent of the profits to a charity. Hopefully, it’s a charity that really does something other than make money for themselves. Check that out sometime on the Internet. Find out what charities really help people—not just the ones that make money for “administrative costs.”
I have survived breast cancer twice. I’ve endured two mastectomies, two rounds of chemo, two rounds of hair loss, two rounds of feeling like crap for months. I’m not complaining, really. It’s just something that happened to me that really, really sucked. As a result, I have a body that is wracked with scars. A chest with no breasts—only scars. I have arms that are painful and swollen every day. I have dangerous infections for which I have to be hospitalized. I’ve had to have a hysterectomy because of cancer. I have taken drugs that made me clinically depressed and quite literally crazy. I never feel pretty anymore. There are so many clothes that I can’t wear, including the pretty-colored, lacy bras that everyone was posting on Facebook.
Not all my experience with breast cancer has been negative, though. I figured out at a pretty early age what is really important in life. I’ve found out how tough I really am. I have found out how much Mark, my family, and my friends really love me. I have also found out who my true friends really are. I’ve also met some wonderful new people that I probably never would have met. I try to do things that are important to me, even if I really can’t afford them. I don’t worry about too many things and I laugh a lot more.
I’ve lost my breasts—both of them. I haven’t had reconstruction. No matter what they do, if they put bags of saline or part of my stomach fat there, I will never, never ever have them back. That part of my body is gone forever—they wouldn’t be the part of me that was lost. I will never have the breasts that felt a gentle caress of my husband or would have fed the children I may have had if I hadn’t gotten cancer at thirty. But that is only part of what a woman with breast cancer loses.
Though it’s horrible to lose a breast, it’s more horrible to lose your life. I’ve known too many people that have died, leaving small children and spouses and other loved ones. Wonderful, vibrant people that had so much to give to their world and so much to live for, that are only memories now. People that were teachers, musicians, researchers, scientists, artists, but more importantly they were also mothers, daughters, wives, sisters, and friends to the people that lost them.
So please don’t trivialize my fight, and the experience of all the other survivors, by campaigning to “save the boobies.” It’s not fair to me or all the others out there who have fought the battle.