Thursday, September 15, 2011
Today I want to share a part of me I rarely open up to anyone. True I am an open book on any given day at any given time just ask my family, they will give you a resounding yep. I tend to hold nothing back especially when it comes to my battle with breast cancer. I embrace my scars, my battle wounds and I do not apologize for any one of them. I have pretty much been one of those gals who wears her heart on her sleeve from the get go. Honestly from the time I was a little girl I would speak my mind, mostly to my parents dismay. As a teenager I had my heart broken more times than I can shake a stick at. As I became a woman I found I tended not just to open the windows to my heart , nope instead I couldn’t seem to stop myself from throwing open the front door, making myself a welcome mate for anyone I allowed my heart to warm up to.
Now I bet you are wondering how this has anything to do with breast cancer right. Well, let me clue you in, those of us with soft, tender hearts on our sleeves tend to find ourselves trying to please everyone else around us. We may be surrounded by folks fully capable of carrying the trash to the curb yet we will take the trash out literally , dragging it, pushing it out the door as our stitches pop one at a time, all the while assuring everyone around us how wonderful we are. Seriously, those with the kindest hearts, with the least available to give, tend to be the ones giving everything while being over looked the most, judged without mercy and left bandaging up our hearts alone.
I am opening up about this today because in the last few weeks I have had the chance to speak heart to heart with several of my sisters in arms as I like to call them. Some are fellow sister survivors, some in remission and others still in the middle of the fight but all with one thing in common: breast cancer. We share two common cords of heart break, loneliness and abandonment. Now I bet you are asking yourself how can this be? Christina, alone, abandoned, heart broken? Well yes actually, I have been and at times I still can be. I’m a straight shooter so first let me say I am just like you; I am human not wonder woman. I do not have some fancy invisible red or bright pink cape that only those around me see, enabling me to overcome anything and everything coming my way. I may seem fearless, never afraid of the dark and the things that go bump but the truth is the wolves still come to my door each and every night. Cancer fighters, survivors are just as human, just as likely to hurt, to worry and to need to overcome life’s hurdles as you are. We have just as many bad days as anyone else, in fact maybe even a few more than average if you really think about it. Seriously just being able to say mastectomy, chemo and tram flap in one sentence without blinking is either a sign we have lost our minds or that we have a great sense of humor. Your laid back, beautiful, lazy sunny afternoon may be our sick beyond description, hurl and wipe your face kind of day. These types of miserable afternoons are generally kept hidden, in the back ground, with an excuse me and a smile, followed by pulling back the old tattered cape and wishing this obnoxious beast would just leave us alone! Most would have no clue how our day has careened into the wrong lane of on coming traffic because our smiles never fade, our hope always endures despite how hard, and how bad our good day is going.
I am not alone in this conversation, feeling I need to balance the world of cancer and all her struggles squarely on top of my shoulders alone. I recently chatted with friends who like me feel bad , as if we are sinning to a degree if we let the cat out of the bag, trying to balance it all so no one has to really feel our fear, our hurt and the sometimes frightening image reflected in our own mirrors. We tend to tip toe around the subject, apologizing to one another for opening the front door and spilling the beans not wanting to impose on anyone. There is no way, as mothers we are going to fail at anything right? We can ride a bike, cape whipping in the wind behind us, holding the world up on our shoulders, just like Atlas without blinking right? Sure we can, handle bars are for sissies anyway, go on tie that cape a little tighter, we may be able to actually fly if we try hard enough. Come on Brother, Sister Guilt, give me an amen! You can bet your bottom dollar as Wonder Women we are not going to admit Super Man may be stronger than we are! The real down and dirty truth is those fighting cancer, especially women, no matter how strong they are, still need help building a refuge no matter how good we are at making our house a home.
The thing is this, we all have been told to just call if we need help, to ask but have you ever just stopped to think that call will never come from the ones who need help the most? Reason says pick up the phone, call ask for a meal, ask for someone to sit by your side as the chemo flows through your veins, but then your invisible cape gets in the way and you decide not to be a bother. You are Wonder Woman after all, you have a shiny invisible cape everyone else see but you, your heart remembers how strong you’re suppose to be and how grateful you have been told you need to be because after all your cancer isn’t as bad as so and so’s. For whatever reason folks tend to compare one cancer experience with another even if they themselves have NEVER had cancer! It’s as if they need to hand out first, second and third place medals, raise the flag, play someone else’s anthem and put you in a box for all to see. Can I just say this is not sound advice! This trivializes the pain, the fear and amplifies the anguish of cancer’s deep reaching claws. Cancer is an ordeal for everyone involved, everyone feels the torment, but sadly sometime it’s the woman living, coping with, fighting, and raging against the beast we call breast cancer who finds herself left in the dust picking her self up all alone.
You’ve heard the old saying, “I am women hear me roar right”? Well the thing is so many of us mothers, wives, daughters and grandmothers still think we can roar, but when we open our lungs up to let it rip, all we hear is a squeak. Do not get me wrong, no matter how much cancer takes from us we are still strong, tough and even if we have to crawl to the fight we are in all or nothing. It’s just many times those women we see as pillars of strength are the very same who struggle alone in the depth of their souls with the agony, affliction, distress, grief and misery of cancer’s suffering just so those they love do not have to feel the ache of the beast’s sorrow. I can’t tell you how many times I have cried out to my Lord above to take the wheel! How many times I have felt I was on the edge of the abyss without a rope to pull me back. I have felt alone, without a chance in earth, hell or heaven of making it out alive. I have cried out inside as I have listened to folks with good intentions go on about how excited they are to rejoice with me because I’m going to meet Jesus first! Oh yes, these are the times those of us living with cancer stamped across our foreheads want to scream, pull out what is left of our hair and run down the street tearing our clothes off, shouting the sky is falling!
So what can you do? Well, let me shine a little light, even if is with my half filled lighter in the dark, on this issue. Take charge of your actions, do not trivialize the pain, don’t try and bury it, don’t make light of someone else’s life or death struggle and don’t compare one battle with another, because seriously those of us fighting are all part of the same war! Get involved, pick up a phone, call and just listen. Don’t just offer to help, instead pick up the kids from school, take them with your family for the day, cook a meal and just bring it by. Be there for those you love, those who you know love you, those who would never leave or abandon you on the battlefield. Step up, unpack your bags and stay for a while, think twice before going awol when your needed the most! And most of all join the fight against breast cancer by planting your feet right where you are. If we are going to drag each other through hell and back head first, fearless, then let’s be sure we are holding one another’s hand, side by side, not pushing one another through a door too small, into a ditch too deep or over the edge of a cliff too wide. Don’t just offer shelter, help gather the supplies needed to build one, be part of the solution, not the problem, lend an ear not an answer, provide some comfort, act on your promises and help your friend retire that old worn out, torn invisible cape. Believe me you will both be glad you did!