It happened again. This morning, I found out that yet another BC sister is reaching the end of her journey. Of course it made me really, really sad, but I also felt utterly and profoundly pissed off. I can't believe another family may have to say goodbye to a soon loved one due to this ridiculously insidious disease. Ugh.
This has been a heck of a year so far. I've lost several friends and acquaintances to this beast and several more to heart attacks and accidents. Still reeling from the news of one untimely passing, a call, email, text or Tweet would come about someone else's. The memorials and funerals have truly exhausted me, but they have gotten me thinking about legacy a lot more than ever.
My reality is this: I am a breast cancer survivor. Since this disease is such a crap shoot (in that no one yet knows why some BCs get gone after treatment and others come back) and there is absolutely no cure for this disease, the chance that mine could come back with a vengence and take me out is very real - even after seven years of being NED. Other than some meories and a few blog posts, what will be left of me after I'm gone? And what will those life left-overs say about me and what I did with my time here on earth?
The friends whom I lost ranged in age from 21 to 65 years of age. Their legacies include their children, their writing, their advocacy and the promise of what life had in store for them had they been here still to live it. They leave behind husbands and wives, children and Internet sisters, girlfriends and parents, relatives and friends who all remembered them "when" - when they were alive and kicking, doing their thing and living life like they'd retire and have grandchildren. Sadly, they didn't. How will the memories of who they were live on?
A few days ago, I was asked to write a bio for a presentation this spring. I was warned that writing about myself can be difficult - which I already knew, but I really had no idea why until I sat down to write this particular bio. Most of the people reading it will know me from the world of martial arts, although the award is for teaching outside the dojo. The truth is that I'm more than just a teacher and a karateka, but if you only see me in a gi or behind the podium in a lecture hall, you'd be none the wiser. The difficulty in writing about all you do and all you are, I found, is all about what NOT to include. Who wants their bio to read like they are a superhero?
But isn't that what we all are? Rachel, Elizabeth, Tim and Mr. Guzman certainly were. Nobody just does one thing all their life - be that world politics, a more mundane day job or heading a fabulous yearly fund-raiser/event - and they were no exception. We're all much more of a multi-faceted entity than how we can describe ourselves to someone we're meeting for the first time.
Today, this super hero is ticked off. It's time to cut the bull and find out what causes this disease so we can find a way to end it forever. It's time to stop the stupid parade of pink crap - and the way BC is feminized and turned into something cute, beatable and oh-such-a-gift. Fuck that. Cancer kills - and despite what you see about early detection, breast cancer is no exception. It's time to start asking where the millions raised each year for research actually goes and time to start asking why Stage IV/metastatic breast cancer gets too little attention and funding when it's taking so many people away from us.
April will mark 20 years since my mom died of brain mets - but in that time, despite the billions raised "for breast cancer" (whatever that means), the death rate for this menace has not changed an iota. That's some serious crap right there...
I'm tired. Tired of sending condolence cards and hearing about folks going to hospice. I'm tired of funerals and memorials for sisters who left us way too soon. I'm tired of the anxiety felt when it's time for a visit to the oncologist for myself or one of my sisters and equally as tired of the cute pink ribbons that trick the public into thinking dealing with BC is as simple as having surgery, undergoing with chemo/radiation and never having to deal with this beast again. I'm. Just. Tired.
I hope you are, too.