Perception is a funny thing, think of it like a two way mirror. What we see ourselves, how we view ourselves, can be so different from what others perceive on the other side of the glass. Sometimes we really do need a new, different perspective; while other times we actually clearly see what is standing in our way.
Some folks in our lives may see us as defeated, finding discouragement in the hardships we face while still others may see the spark inside our lives thrusting us forward, overcoming the struggles ready to devour our lives. I recently had a conversation with a friend, a dear friend with a whole new, completely different perspective on my own battle with breast cancer and the aftermath which has followed. Now I could have jumped back, indignant, offended, but the truth is his perspective is valid, but not the complete picture, not in how he views my battle through those particular glasses perched on his nose.
The truth is "this cancer" has taken over my life, he’s right and it did take my breast, removing and detaching itself physically from my body. Yes in retrospect"it" has shortened my life span to a degree BUT I am not my cancer, it does not own me nor does it control me! Cancer especially does not define me. What this breast cancer does do, has done, is inspire me, defining me only in the way I allow it to, in the way I choose to fight it! I am a warrior, more than a one punch and you are down, go getter, blaze a trail and then come back for those I could not carry on my shoulders the first time through kind of gal! If I simple accepted my fate, my destiny with cancer, allowed my experience to control me I would not be here today, my voice would have never risen from the destruction breast cancer sought to accomplish! Honestly speaking, this is the bottom of the barrel, knock you out, and smack you in the back of the head Jethro kind of moment! I may be a loud mouth, stand up to the beast, pink wearing, glove toting, fire blazing, charge , lets run toward the fight ,not from it type of girl, but I am not ashamed nor do I hide from this particular truth.
In the years gone by, women suffered through breast cancer quietly. It was expected, you fought it alone and you died from it alone many times. Mostly you kept it hidden, dealt with it and moved on, without offering your defining moment with the beast to anyone one else. In fact using the words breast and cancer together would raise an eyebrow or two. Let’s call a spade a spade, breast cancer makes us uncomfortable, causes us to squirm, cover our eyes, hold our hands over our ears, trying to ignore the Big C standing in our way. Sadly the whole hear no evil, see no evil strategy is a failure when it comes to cancer. Still many still hold to this approach after all we associate a woman’s breast with many things whether it is nurturing or sexual, we do not like to think of those women in our lives as dying, withering away from a disease eating at the very image we define a woman as: whole with two boobies.
Did I ever expect breast cancer to invade my life? Not really. I thought about it, say maybe when I was 60, not when I was 32 years old. Breast cancer came barreling into my life about 3 decades too soon. She came for me while I was still raising small children, boys who needed a mother, who still lay against my breast for comfort. I was not your typical breast cancer patient at the time either; unfortunately breast cancer in younger women is becoming more and more prevalent. With this news you can imagine so are the needs of these fearless women as well. Breast cancer does not fade into your life, pause and then fade out. This struggle is not a movie on the silver screen, 2 hours and it’s over, moving you on to the next great big thing. No this beast comes not only to knock you down but to claw you to pieces and if you have no battle plan, no sense of ownership, then you are going to struggle with getting back up on your feet.
You can call me defeated, overcome, taken over and led around by a ring in my nose. I will even admit I have felt many times as if cancer would kill me with her bare hands if she was allowed. I will not deny I am many things, but I am not a whining, feel sorry for myself, surrender the fight, it's over, wave the white flag type of anything! I refuse to turn myself over to the idea I am my cancer. I am weak in many ways in life, but when it comes to this beast, I am ferocious! I will not allow myself to sit here and watch other women, their families; their children face this battle alone! This is what drives me, encourages me, strengthens me, this is what defines me!
Yes perspective is a funny thing, but defeat is not in my vocabulary! I have grabbed hold of boldness, courage, tenacity, yes humor, determination and at times bravery in the face of breast cancer. I never envisioned myself as the founder of a breast cancer charity; no my aspirations in life were simple. I was going to go on the mission field, become a mother, a wife, and make my small mark here on earth. But you know what? This wasn’t His plan! This was: to battle a beast with no beginning and no end, to overcome, to live in spite of the odds, and to allow my battle with breast cancer to define me, not the breast cancer itself!
I am eager to reach my fellow survivors, those families fighting this battle and to remember those who we have lost along this journey. I do not know where life will take me, what cancer may eventually do to me, but this I know: I am strong, I am a fighter, but I am not a defeated, over taken, controlled by and given into cancer as a victim! I am no one’s victim, especially not cancers! Sure you may scoff, roll your eyes and even shout out a “yea right”, thinking to yourself, man she’s made herself part of the problem, consumed by an exclusive club of Pink. I will tell you friend, you have it partially right. But this is where you have it wrong: it’s not a club and it’s not exclusive. I would not deny I am part of the 'Fights like a girl campaign', I wear pink but I am not the color pink. True I am consumed with finding a cure so my own son’s will not have to face this beast one day themselves and you are absolutely right I am the problem! I am breast cancer’s PROBLEM with a capital P! The truth is I may fight like a girl, but watch out, cancer pulled the wrong woman into the ring, and my punch carries a decent wallop. Go ahead; just ask the cancerous beast lying dazed on the floor beneath my feet!
So friends, when perspective seems shaky, clouded by fear, worry, let it go. This battle is between you and the beast, those who chose to run into battle with you will, those who fear the gnarling moans of the beast will provide support in other ways, from the side lines. Just be ready, have your gloves on, and when breast cancer pops her head out from behind her claws, knock her out for the count!