If I was to compare my story with Toy Story parts 1, 2 and 3 I would call it My ‘Breast Story’. If you have seen this film then you know where I am coming from. Honestly for many of us fighting this beast our stories seem to be played out in 3 parts. Part one: Mastectomy. Part two: Chemo. Part Three: Remission.
Life with breast cancer is crazy. If it is not one thing it is another and another and of course another. Life becomes extremely unpredictable than ever before. On most days most of us really aren’t sure where we were going to land but with breast cancer those days seem to intensify. I know many of you who have come along for the ride with me have felt the same way…. When is this ever going to end?
If we skip ahead to the end of the story and read the last page first we all know all ends well and has a happy ending, but when the story first began on page one I have to say I was not all too optimistic. The one constant I had at all times where these four things: my faith, my courage, my hope and of course my wonderful friends and family. If you have seen Toy Story 3 or any of the Toy Story movies friendship and family are the core parts of these movies. Why? Well without them we are nowhere.
In this last film the toys are facing a very uncertain future as they sit at the bottom of the toy box in Andy’s room. Life has changed from the living life out of the toy box to living life at the bottom of the toy box for these friends. Andy has grown up, and is leaving them behind. But what they don’t know is even though Andy has grown up and is moving on with his life he still has a special place in his heart for these toys. Life can be like living at the bottom of the toy box, especially in the aftermath of breast cancer.
Time goes by; you move parts of your old life there, bring out the parts of this new life and place it over here. Life takes on new meaning, part of who you were before still remains but a good part of it gets left behind… say like a breast or two maybe? Yes some people do bail on you, maybe not to be cruel; maybe they realize their part in your life is complete before you do. Such as the Green Army Men in the movie these folks feel they will be tossed aside once you are well or maybe they fear losing you to the beast so they pack up and move on. I really thought hard about this as I watched this scene unfold. ~Sergeant: [Three of Andy's army men are preparing to jump out the window with parachutes] We've done our duty. Andy's grown up. ~ Then they jump out the window.
So many scenes came to life for me through this movie. Of course I sat there with my boys, Joshua and Micah, one on each side of me, crying my eyes out. I couldn’t help myself really. They are growing up so fast and I am helpless to do anything about it! In four short years Joshua and Micah have not only fought by my side and been wounded yet they have continued to help fight this beast day in and day out. How many days have they had to give up to mom’s health over the last four years? I am sure they have had days when they have felt like the toys in Andy’s toy box longing for the days of old to return…when mom was well, before she lost her breast, before their young lives were touched by the beast’s sting. I know I have felt the same way on more than one occasion myself. The truth is we can’t go back. Life unfortunately is not set up like.
I will admit many nights I lay in bed longing to go back to those younger years with the boys…before the cancer invaded our lives. Honestly there are days I would even undergo chemo again if I could have just one day to spend with them as little guys with their toys and forts and giggles again. If toys really came to life then I know exactly how Woody felt sitting at the bottom of the toy box. The feeling of uncertainty can become overwhelming at times and no matter how you try and spin it, those days usually get spun out of control. We can get hysterical, lose our wits and go just pain crazy for a bit right? Kinda like the toys in the movie when they suddenly realize Andy is grown up:” Buzz Lightyear: Hold on, this is no time to be hysterical! Hamm the Piggy Bank: This is the perfect time to be hysterical. Rex the Green Dinosaur: Should we be HYSTERICAL? Slinky Dog: No! Mr. Potato Head: Yes! Buzz Lightyear: Maybe! But not right now!” How do you not go hysterical when they have chopped your left breast off, pumped poison into your veins and lost your hair?
Well you don’t. You do get hysterical just maybe not at the first sign of trouble. Life moves on, you get misplaced, friends, family get misplaced, you lose some battles, win some battles but in the end whatever your fate you face it with courage. I came close to just breaking down in tears as I watched our familiar toy friends facing the inferno. I know you may ask how you see your battle with breast cancer in everything. Hum… easy. After you have faced a demon like breast cancer, you see life through a different set of eyes. You see clearer and hold those dear to you even closer even if they don’t seem to know it. Having courage while facing the incinerator isn’t an easy thing and this is why this scene grabs my heart so mightily. Here they were struggling to survive when they faced the reality of the situation they had found themselves in TOGETHER.
One by one they saw their fate; they knew life was over as they knew it. No more fighting, no more struggling… this was it. One by one they grabbed each other’s hands, looked one another in the eyes and prepared to face the end TOGETHER. Facing uncertainty together is the key to overcoming the fear and hysteria we find when the road before us comes to a sudden end. When we come together we can overcome anything! Just when you think life has thrown a sucker punch and you can’t get up; it’s those we love who come to our aid, to our rescue. Just like the “claw” we are saved and removed, if even just for a little while, from the beast’s final blow.
Can I say where this road will eventually take us? No I can’t because life is uncertain but I can say whatever life brings I do not plan to live it at the bottom of the toy box! Yes my boys will grown up and become men But I know no matter where life takes them or takes us we will always have each other! I know when I am just a memory to generations down the road a cure will be found. How do I know this? Well because our breast stories, our struggles and our fight TOGETHER, as not just family but as survivors, will not have been in vain. Our stories link us together, to a hope and courage like none other. Just as Andy tells Bonnie, “Andy: Now, you gotta promise to take good care of these guys. They, mean alot to me” ~ I know the faith we instill in our children today is the thread linking us to the future generations to come after we are gone.
So I say let’s go find a cure but until one is found we need each other. We should never give up on anyone no matter the struggle, no matter the pain; no matter how close they bring us to the incinerator we stick TOGETHER hand and hand!