Sunday, October 19, 2014

Missing the Ta-Tas

It's breast cancer awareness month. Everywhere you look you see pink. At the mall. On Facebook. On the news. It's unavoidable. For those of us who are personally acquainted with the disease, it's a harsh reminder of how it's affected us personally.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all about promoting awareness. But it's painful on so many levels for those of us who have lost loved ones, been physically deformed by the cancer, and who will always live with the "threat" of recurrence.

It's been over 25 years since my mom died from metastic breast cancer. It's been over 14 years since I found my lump and had a lumpectomy, radiation and chemotherapy. It's been over 5 years since I learned I was a carrier of the BRCA gene. It's been over two years since my daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer and made the difficult decision to take preventative measures against recurrence. It's been a year since I lost my ta-tas. All the pink awareness in the world can't take away the pain of how this disease has touched every aspect of my life.

Lately, I've been missing the ta-tas. I never thought I would say that. I never thought I would miss those cumbersome appendages on my chest, that were always "too large' for everything. But I miss them. It's a grief process and since I made the decision (partly because of my heart issues) not to have reconstruction, it's a constant reminder every day when I look in the mirror that this disease has damaged and deformed not only my body, but my life.

I'm not really a "breast cancer survivor". I'm a wounded warrior with the physical and emotional scars of the battle. A fellow breast cancer victim and Facebook friend, Julie Goodale, put it quite simply (read her entire post):

Breast cancer is not a pink ribbon. It’s a disease. It’s a really sucky disease. There is no cure. Let me repeat that: there is no cure. This is not the “good” kind of cancer. Early detection does not mean that it can be cured. We are all forever at risk of recurrence. Over time, the risk does go down, but it never disappears. While there are some cancers that doctors consider “cured” if it hasn’t returned in 5 years, breast cancer is not one of those. Breast cancer can and does return – the original cancer – years later. Twelve years, 15, 27 years later.

Maybe it’s just that after 13 years, I’m tired of losing friends and acquaintances to breast cancer. I’m tired of hearing about how this is the “good” kind of cancer – I mean, if you have to get cancer…. I’m tired of hearing how it’s all behind me. I’m tired of welcoming more friends into this community. And I’m really tired of saying goodbye.

Yes. I miss the ta-tas. But it's so much more than that. I miss what life was like before cancer reared its ugly head in my life. I miss what I used to call "normal" and what my Mom said would never be again. So for those of you fellow wounded warriors out there, don't forget that even though it's "pink" month, the only real awareness is the one that comes from knowing that breast cancer kills, mames, and destroys lives. It's not about wearing a pink ribbon. Have a conversation with someone who has been through it--it's a sucky disease.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Getting old

getting old

Getting old sucks. At least part of the time. I remember listening to my Dad talk about all his ailments and wonder why he couldn't simply enjoy life. But now I know. It's difficult. The problem is my body is getting older but I feel young inside. There's a constant battle because I want to do the things I did at 25 but I'm not able to anymore. It's frustrating and often annoying.

But it's not that way for everyone. I remember my aunt who lived to be 96. She never seemed old or frustrated with her limitations. She embraced every day with a positive outlook. I wish I was more like her.

Don't get me wrong. There are days when I'm thankful for every day I'm still here, especially when I look into my grandkids eyes or I get to spend time with my kids. My Mom died when she was 55. I know she would have given anything to still be here enjoying her kids and grandkids. Thinking about that makes me feel ungrateful.

Aging is the hardest part of life. When you're young you can't wait to get older, graduate from high school, go to college, get married and have kids. Then your kids start having kids and you realize just how quickly the time passes. That means you should be grateful for every day; at least that's the proper response. But it's not always the easy one.

When I think back on my life, I feel like I've only begun to live. There are so many places I want to see--see Francisco, go back to Paris, visit Italy, hike part of the Appalachian Trail, There are so many milestones I want to be here for--E's and W's graduations, weddings and great grandchildren. It's looking forward that makes the here and now more bearable.

If you concentrate on the past, the ailments, and the struggles, you miss out on the joys of the here and now. That's the key to growing old--embrace the joy, look toward the future, and cherish the memories. There is no pain great enough to overcome those blessings in life.

“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson