I realized when I wrote this blog title that I may be leading you to think this one is about sex. Nope. I mean the C-word that has rocked millions and millions of lives: Cancer. I would imagine that just about everyone knows that October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. And I can’t let this month end without writing about it.
Here’s the deal. Bladder cancer took my dad when I was eight years old. And about 11 years ago, breast cancer tried to take my mom. Tried and lost, thank you very much. So this past weekend I got to watch her stand up in front of hundreds of people dressed in pink t-shirts, surrounded by thousands of pink balloons and kick off a walk to raise money for women fighting breast cancer – because October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It was awesome.
A great way to give you an idea of how my mom lives as a cancer survivor is to tell you a real story. She has a black-tie event coming up next month and we are talking about what she is going to wear. We are in her house surrounded by lots and lots of framed pictures and I see one that has her in a glimmering red gown. I say, hey, how about wearing that dress? And she laughs and says, oh can’t wear that one because that was back when I had two boobs. No sadness, just badass matter-of-factness. Over a decade ago she called her tumor Saddam and made the doctors play “I Believe I Can Fly” in the operating room.
When she was giving her speech at the walk last weekend, my mom told the crowd that she asked God to let her live long enough to meet her grandchildren, and she has. During her speech, I walked through the crowd taking pictures. And then I looked closer at the faces of the people in the crowd. All of them touched by the C-word. There were faces of empowerment; of survival and of pride. There were also faces of loss and of heartbreak – women like me, but whose moms didn’t live long enough to meet their children. Families like ours, but their daughters didn’t live to have children. Women who asked God for more time, but didn’t get it.
The tragedy and unfairness of the C-word is overwhelming. Which I think is one of the biggest reasons why the people affected by it fight back, and fight back HARD. Cancer victims and the people who love them are like little armies all over the world who are fighting multiple battles. They fight for more than just staying alive. We fight for fair access to treatment; for raising awareness and money for a cure. We fight for education and early testing. We fight, and fight and fight.
There are signs of hope. According to the National Cancer Institute, rates of survival after being diagnosed with breast cancer are up to 78% for patients between the ages of 20 and 49. New forms of detection and new treatments are becoming available. And walks like the one we did raised money specifically to help cover the treatment costs for hundreds of women who don’t have access to proper care (www.desertcancerfoundation.org). Our small armies are making a massive imprint as together we FIGHT.