BRANDED WITH A SCARLET LETTER
As human beings we sometimes have a tendency to blame the sick, the injured, and the weak for their illness. As if they are to blame? I for one have come to know this recurring theme a little too well this past year on many levels and in many different people. Sadly, it is just easier sometimes for others to blame you, ignore you, or be angry with you for being sick. Your illness is now on full parade for all to see and those whom cannot "fix it" just want to sweep it under the rug as if it is a dirty little secret best left out of sight, lout of mind and out of the way! Believe me, as a cancer patient/survivor, if you could keep it out of sight and ignore it you would! But that isn't how this beast works. If you are going to survive it, you are going to have to face it head on, battle it one on one and then accept it. Yet to those that must place blame on someone or something, and there are many out there who need to blame, from those whom we love and trust to those whom pass by you in silence on the street. To them your hope is now a threat and they will do anything to destroy it. Personally I have found that once we embrace hope we overcome the need to blame and we are then able to release our anger and we find we have had faith in spite of the uncertainty all along. Hope overcomes the pain and fear of a less than perfect and failing body and ensures we partake in the many precious joys that surround our lives. Hope is the certainty that overtakes the threat of blames' void, and reaches deep within us to reconcile and restore peace within our souls.
Hope is not a cure all for the cancer that has invaded your body, nor is it a Band-Aid for the emotional pain it inflicts. No hope is believing, and believing is trusting. Trusting in the truth that even in the face of fear you will overcome. For fear is the child of blame and blame the child of uncertainty. Once you realize and accept blame is indeed the child of fear and the seed of anger, you can embrace that hope is the child of faith and faith the child of courage. Each one giving birth to the next while empowering you to press onward. In order to become a survivor you must embrace all three: hope, faith and courage.
In my own experience with this beast, I have found that at times your life may seem to become a blur. Suddenly you don't know which way is up and which way is down. You are no longer in Kansas anymore that is for sure! The wicked witch is far from dead (in fact she is green, the very same color you just can't seem to keep away from on most days) then there are those crazy flying monkeys out to get you and the yellow brick road that is full of pot holes! So what do you do? Well, you learn to cope. You find that you don't need the great wizard to help you get back home. No, what you really need to do is stare those incredible annoying parasites in the eyes, and tell themto bite you! Yep, bite you! Maybe by doing so they'll find out that you aren't contagious and they can actually hug you! By all means you are not all about your pain and suffering! You feel their pain and you really do understand just how crummy life can be. You desire to lend a helping hand and an ear when needed. The one thing you still have is compassion. But it is not compassion they want. No, they want to hang you up by your toes and let all your blood drain out! And if you really wanted to give up you might oblige them. But for now you have enough to deal with here in OZ, with the horse of different colors playing tricks on your eyes and the over bearing, always playing, "Follow the Yellow Brick Road" ringing in your ears. At some point the fairy tale ends and you get real. You have cancer, not yellow fever! You just want those that feel the need to place blame on you to stop playing this childish game of cooties! Once you begin to fight back, and take hold of what this cancer has tried to take from you, you suddenly realize just how much strength you have and you know rain or shine the show will go on!
Why all this drama? I really do not understand why this happens, but after listening to other survivors and reading message boards I know it happens everyday of every week, of every month and in every year to all too many countless cancer patients. It is part of the nature of the beast, I suppose. This sad beast may seem only small, and it mayeven sport a sweet face, but so did the gremlins and we all remember what trouble they caused? A beast is a beast all the same. With its long stretching arms that come to rob you of the only thing you have left, the only part of you that still has something to offer ... your hope!
So, with new scars you come to terms with your fate, embrace the bandanas, the swollen face, lackof facial hair (realizing just how silly you would look if you drew two little arches that remind you of a McDonald's drive -- thru on your forehead) and then you fight back. Yes, it is true you are physically scared. There is no hiding the eight inch bright red scare that sits across your chest where once a breast used to be. You proudly wear those scars. Still, in a sense you feel branded and not just in a physical sense. You know that you have also been marked by those that cannot understand your pain. You begin to view your scars as a scarlet letter that you have now been branded with. The stigma of living with cancer cuts both ways. It slices you physically and emotionally. Those who come to seek out your weakness come only to exploit it. Their only wish is to challenge all that holds hope within you. In one sense the need to push you away is strong, yet the need to try and control you, and yes even to hurt you is even stronger. You begin to feel as if you are being physically set apart, as you are at the same time being emotionally set apart in a deeper, harsher and much more personal way. You are a leper come to walk among the whole, the beautiful and the privileged.
So I say right here and now without regret to all of those courageous women, young and old a like, take heart! Don't accept blame for something that is out of your control. Make plans for the future, even if it is just one day at a day. And above all, remove yourself from those that would seek to destroy your hope! Never give up your hope and always, even when the hour is dark, hold onto your hope.