October’s saving grace is that it is the month I became a mother and the month I get to celebrate my oldest child’s birthday (as well as my dear Mom’s birthday).
I could otherwise do without October.
October is my cancerversary month. It’s when (one year ago) I found the lump in my left breast. It’s when (at 39) I had my first mammogram. It’s when the radiologist told me she had concerns about the imaging. It’s when I had my triple biopsy. It’s when the nurse called and said they found cancer in two of those sites and “pre-cancer” in the third. It’s when I was told I needed a left mastectomy. October is now (as of two weeks ago) also when my reconstruction failed and when I experienced what has felt like my second mastectomy in 5 months.
In addition to being my cancerversary, October is also (as so many of you know) breast cancer awareness month. Ironically, this is the first year that I’ve been aware of that. Though I was obviously plenty aware of breast cancer last month, my awareness has nonetheless been raised in the last few weeks:
I’ve become aware of outrageously insensitive campaigns like “Show your [bra] strap” and “No bra day.” I’ve learned about fabulous counter-campaigns like “Show your [mastectomy] scar.” (In case you were wondering, none of us who have been mutilated by breast cancer want healthy breasts shoved in our faces in the name of “support.” I can barely stand to watch movie scenes with women in bras because it is a painful reminder of so much that has been lost… and I have lost so much more than a body part.)
I’ve become more aware than ever of the sexualization of breast cancer. (Isn’t it cute and sexy, all wrapped up in pink? Shall we flash some ta-tas and call it awareness?) How is it that events/ads like the one below are allowed to flourish? How is it that the entire world isn’t too utterly disgusted and ashamed to let this happen?:
I’ve become more aware than ever of the commercialization of breast cancer. (Buy these cancer-causing products and 1 cent will be donated to breast cancer awareness! For just $___.99, you, too, can have this pink [insert pretty much anything]!) And by the way, some or NONE of the money will go to breast cancer research/support/awareness.
I’ve also become more aware of how much money goes to “awareness” and how little money goes to actual research for an actual cure so that actual women will stop dying from a disease that actually does kill.
This month, I’m aware of how afraid I’ve become. I’m aware that living with this new fear—the fear that I won’t get to watch my children grow up—may be my new normal.
I’m aware of how apart I feel from most people in my life. I’m aware that most people in my life not only cannot relate to what I’ve gone through. They also don’t get the extent to which I am still going through something.
I’m aware that most people think my family and I are through the worst of it; that we’re on the other side of cancer. Just as I’m aware that in many ways, the hardest part has just begun.