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Monday, September 9, 2013

Just girls

As we pull around to the fall, to when I started chemo and started blogging, I have been thinking a lot about the story of this. The arc of it. Life doesn't occur in the neat arc format you learn in fiction class -- a steady plodding of desires and obstacles, leading to a crisis point, and finally softly landing in a denouement. In fact, this year has felt more like a series of crisis points, one after the other, with no free moments for taking stock.

The pink things have started appearing in the windows of pharmacies and grocery stores already. Pink arrives just after back-to-school is marked down, and as orange and black begin to haunt the aisles. It's a peculiar brand of insult to be hit up for cash by Komen as you buy cream to rub on your mastectomy scars. Because I'm over a year out from diagnosis, and this isn't close to over. The narrative they promise, the arbiters of pink, is one of strength and triumph. Cancer is a purifying fire, they tell you, and when we emerge (and we all do emerge) we are better, stronger, faster than before. We run races to prove it. We raise cash. We look pretty.

That's the story they tell, and perhaps it's to get you to buy more pink bags of chips or whatever the fuck. Or perhaps it's because the true story is just too sad and too scary, to gruesome, to stomach.

The truth is not that "We're all going to be okay!" as someone said in my support group once. The truth is not those sanitized sunny smiling women in the Komen/Estee Lauder/Revlon ads. You know the ones...the thought bubble above their heads practically reads, "I've got a life-threatening illness -- and doesn't it make my skin glow!"

The truth is that this fire destroys more than it cleanses, and rising from the ash is just for pheonixes and Daenerys Targaryen. The life lesson you learn isn't "Don't sweat the small stuff!" or "Don't move my cheese!" or whatever. It's "Don't get fucking cancer!"

So what's my arc here? Impossible to say. An arc sort of implies an end, doesn't it? And this isn't over, and it won't be over for a very long time. Maybe not ever, until I die. You don't ever get to say you're cured of this disease. You're considered cured if you live your full expected lifespan, and die from something unrelated to cancer or it's treatment.

Ugh, I'm sorry, dear reader. I know this is a downer. It just makes me so angry that the company that makes Tamoxifen also makes carcinogenic pesticides (and the list goes on and on). And instead of screaming about it and demanding that they stop poisoning us, we're expected to wear pink and jog and talk about bravery. Because we're girls, I guess. And that's what we're supposed to do.


17 comments:

  1. Wow! I appreciate your honesty and candor. One of my very best friends was diagnosed with breast cancer in August and is now on a similar journey, although, as they say, everyone's story is their own.
    Cheers!

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    1. Thanks for your comment. You are right that everyone's experience is different. It's all so personal. Sending my best to your friend. I'm sure she's found lots of support organizations, but I will post some just in case.

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  2. Thank you for your bravery, honesty, and first hand observations to this very personal and trying time in your life. This will help others who are walking a similar road, and I thank you for putting your heart on your sleeve for the world to see.

    Sincerely,
    A Woman, too...

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  3. Thank you for such a great heartwarming story. Your struggles gives me hope that I may be as positive as you. I live with Stage 4 Mantle Cell Lymphoma and you are so inspiring. I watched your video and suddenly my day became much brighter. Thank you for your great spirit. God Bless!

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    1. R, I'm honored that you liked the video and read here. The creation of both has been cathartic for me. Have you ever tried blogging or writing in a journal about your experience?

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    2. Thank you for replying! I write in my journal everyday and you are write. I feel so much better after writing my thoughts down on paper. In addition, I always revisit my thoughts and it truly helps me "know" where I am if that makes sense. Thank you for your strength and God Bless.

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  4. I love your honesty.

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    1. thank you :) I worry that sometimes I get a little prickly!

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  5. I do not currently have cancer. I have not been indirectly affected by it either. I am simply compelled by your story. I saw the "ad" today on Yahoo! about your documentation through your chemoish process. I was hooked. What a brave woman you are. What intellegence and bravery you have. The Komen organzition need to out the spotlight on you, sugar. Well done.

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  6. I love this post. It sounds like we started chemo about the same time. I was the last week of August 2012. The month of October gets on my nerves (although I did get free pink pens at the oncologist last year-LOL). While everyone is running for the cure (and I really DO appreciate that) I'm trying to pay my medical bills before the new deductible year hits and puts us under.

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    1. I know what you mean. On the individual level, I think it comes from a very good place. And it helps the people who love us, who often feel powerless, by giving them something they can 'do'. But if you follow the money all the way up, it reveals some very disconcerting realities.

      I can never resist a Wire reference, so here:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z7M71wmwWRo

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  7. This dear reader likes the real story. The very word "cancer" scares me and so does the never-ending doctors and hospital visits that seem to go with the word. Not that I worry about it every day. I just started reading your blog today after seeing the video on Daily News. Thanks for posting.

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  8. as I'm reading through all your posts (hello, I'm your new stalker!) this one hit home especially. Seriously, screw all the pink shit. I would use other words, but you don't know me, so I'll be restrained in my use of swear words. But just so you know, you have a very like-minded reader now

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  9. Thank you for open honesty, this I understand!

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