There is no way to write what I am about to write without it hurting someone’s feelings or making someone mad. I know because I have been trying for three years to come up with a way to write it and in three years, I have not succeeded. Keeping that in mind, here goes the thesis statement for this essay:
Fuck the pink ribbons. Fuck the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Fuck the No Make-up Selfies and the jokes about saving second base. Fuck the bumper stickers and the key chains and the pink Kleenex boxes and the titty pink spatulas. Fuck it all.
You want to honor my struggle? You want to raise awareness? Show up. Show the fuck up. Show up for women who don’t have access to decent, affordable, medical care. Show up for families living in poverty, on the unsafe side of town, where no one much cares if there is a coal plant in the backyard. Show up for funding research. Show up for science literacy in public education. Show up.
Show up for discovering why breast cancer rates are going through the roof. Show up for farming that doesn’t kill the land and good food that nourishes our bodies. Show up for clean water and clean air. Show up.
Show up for your own health and well-being. Take care of yourself. Embrace your body, with all its stretchmarks and cellulite and scars, because it is the only body you have and it has carried you this far and if you want it to get you through the next forty years, you’d better start loving it. Show up in your life. Use your God-given gifts. Stretch. Learn. Do. Be. Show up in your own heart. Forgive yourself. Love yourself. Be as kind to yourself as you are to others.
None of this is easy. It is a lot easier to participate in cutesy memes on Twitter or Facebook. It is easier to put on a pink t-shirt and a tutu and walk a 5k. It is easier because it doesn’t really cost us anything. We can frolic along and think everything is fine because we donated $1 to the Komen Foundation with our purchase at Krogers. Everything is not okay. Everything is not fine.
If we want better treatment options, we are going to have to make noise. If we want research dollars for Stage IV disease, my disease, we are going to have to make noise. If we want better options for reconstruction, for recovery, for anything, we are going to have to make noise.
I get the impulse to want to do something and not knowing what to do. It is overwhelming, this whole cancer thing. I know so many of you would have done anything to make the last three years of my life easier. I want you to know I felt that. I knew it. I know it, still. And I love you for it. I could not have made it without the love and support of my friends and family.
This disease is a nightmare at times, a long, long, nightmare. And it is my nightmare. Mine alone to walk through, mine alone to carry. Knowing I have people ready to prop me up, push me forward, catch me when I fall, it means all the world.
Nothing about breast cancer is pretty, pink, whimsical, cute, or silly. It was and is a fucking slog. Three years after diagnosis, there are days I feel like I am nothing more than a ball of associated side effects. I am disfigured. I am depleted. But I’m not dead. I’m not downhearted. I am alive, against all the odds, I am alive.
You want to honor my walk with cancer? Show up, for me and for yourself. Show up.