Breast cancer …the words still sting – eight years later – when I use them to describe my health history. Some cancer survivors say, “Cancer was a gift.” Ummm, not my idea of a gift. I prefer boarding passes to fun places and homemade cards, cakes and family adventures as gifts. Not illness.
But I do get their message: the lessons learned from the experience remain.
Mostly, I cherish the outpouring of kindness from strangers –women whose posts on the breast cancer web site strengthened me and calmed my out-of-control anxiety. Women sent cards, one sent a jewelry pin of women standing together, telling me I was not alone. Mostly, I cherish those 3:00 a.m. messages when I had insomnia and would slip out of bed and log on, posting my questions, grief and fear. Within a few minutes women – often from a time zone where the sun was up – would answer. I will never know their names, all the details of their breast cancer journeys, but I will love them forever.
A wonderful friend was diagnosed earlier this year with breast cancer, a cousin, too and this week another woman I know, my age, faces those awful treatment choices. I want to stay close and offer details of my journey, when asked. Mostly, I want to be there in their 3:00 a.m. moments of terror or grief or loneliness.
I want to be their gift.
(S-R archives photo: Breast cancer survivors pose for a group photograph behind the INB Performing Arts Center on Sunday, April 17, 2011. )