I used to say, "The only 2 things that I'm scared of are shots and spiders." Well, that's changed. I'm no longer scared of shots, due to the fact that I'm a regular blood donor, now. (I was going to put some joke about tequila here, but decided against it... I don't like tequila, anyway. And if my mother is reading this, I've never touched the stuff.) I still have no love for spiders, and I'd prefer to live in an entirely spider-free universe, but I'm not really afraid of them (unless they're the really, really big ones from Harry Potter). My two little fears have been replaced and surpassed by the terror that strikes deep into my heart when I think of breast cancer.
Breast cancer is a scourge. While it mainly exists in women, men do get it as well. No one is completely risk-free when it comes to this illness, though some are at a much higher risk. The thing about it is this: breast cancer affects everyone in some way. It does not limit itself to touching only those it infects. The effects of breast cancer reach into the lives of those without it. Breast cancer is an unseen monster that reaches into every life with millions of mile-long tentacles . One in every seven-- you read that right, SEVEN-- women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in her life. Think of the women you love. Not all the women you know, just the ones who really mean something to you. Divide the number of women you love by seven, and that's how many times you should be touched by breast cancer, in your life.
See, breast cancer is a demon that must be fought by the person carrying it, but for those who don't have it, it's Harvey-- an unseen force, but unlike the rabbit, this one is waging war against someone you love, leaving you helpless in its wake. Nothing you can do will make a difference. The war is waged on the inside of someone you love, and there's no way to help fight. It's a personal battle. It's a battle of wills, waged with molecules.
Sometimes I wonder if it's harder on the family than it is on the fighter, simply because of the fact that there are things that you can DO if you are diagnosed. There are drugs you can take, foods you can eat, things you can learn, and you have the ability to fight the demon mentally, each day. But your family? Your family gets to sit and wait. They get to watch your hair fall out as the chemo takes its toll on your body. They get to "be there for you" and bring you things, but there's nothing they can do to help you win the daily war, no matter how much they may want to. The battles fought by the loved ones are those for sanity, mental fortitude, and strength. Your family holds you up. They can't let the strain of watching your condition, moment-by-moment, affect them. They must stay "up", happy, helpful, concerned, but not worried. They get to hurt for you, but they don't get to help you fight. That is a road they must watch you walk alone.
Breast cancer terrifies me. What terrifies me most is not getting it, though that would be bad enough, but watching those I love be diagnosed and fight for their lives. I think of those I know who are left without a mother, wife, sister, friend, and my heart just breaks. I think of the children who grow up without a mommy. I think of the man who grows old, alone. I think of the parents who ache for a daughter that's not there, the brother who wishes that he could have had just one more moment to tease his sister... And then, I think of MY parents, MY brother and sisters, MY Aunt Polly, MY nieces and nephew, MY friends, and I hope and pray that I never leave them that way.
I will be walking the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in DC, next May. My prayer is that God will use me in the lives of those affected by breast cancer, directly or indirectly, and that those I love will be shielded and helped throughout this war.
One final thought: Check your breasts. Do your breast self-exams (yes, men, too...). Get your mammograms. Learn about IBC (Inflammatory Breast Cancer-- no lumps, cannot be detected by mammogram). Eat properly. Don't smoke. Love your family and friends. Talk to me, if you'd like to donate money for my Avon Walk or click here.
Life's too short, people. Hold the ones you love.