By Brenda Tadych
I feel blessed to never have had breast cancer, but as I write this I’m thinking of those breast cancer warriors I know who are either in remission, those who are fighting, and sadly, those who have passed away from this disease.
Virtually all of their stories began like this: they felt fine and were shocked to learn there were cells inside their bodies trying to kill them. But each woman’s cancer journey is very much her own.
For newly-diagnosed cancer patients, even though doctors may be careful not to provide an end of life prediction, an internal clock begins ticking. The calendar is both a hopeful reminder and worst enemy. Each woman lives with the nagging thought that ”survived another day” could turn into a dreaded battle, one white blood cell at a time.
Some of my friends felt compelled to squeeze in a family vacation before their treatments began, thankful to walk the beach in a bathing suit or carry sand buckets and shovels with ease.
Some of my friends voiced their dread of being a burden to their spouses or children.
One friend wondered aloud if she would be able to communicate with her kids if they sought out a spiritual medium to “connect” with her in the afterlife.
Several of my friends chose to participate in every available cancer fundraiser to honor the memories of women who lost their battle and for those currently fighting the good fight.
Another one of my friends refused to participate in any fundraising and awareness walks because she felt it put too much emphasis on the disease and not the person. In her words, her cancer diagnosis didn’t define her any more than having the flu would.
I call my friends breast cancer warriors for a reason. No matter how many loved ones are rooting for their complete recovery, no matter how many doctors, nurses and researchers are working for them, no matter how much money is raised or how much research is done, it remains a singular battle between a woman and her cancerous body. The enemy called breast cancer needs to be ousted. Each cancer warrior plans her treatment strategies and prepares for the battle of her life.
I’ll never forget the email I received from an acquaintance after her breast cancer returned and metastasized. She wrote, “I am no longer able to continue my life’s work. I’m home and resting comfortably.” It took several readings before I registered what she was really telling me. As her battle was nearing the end, she chose to make the transition on her own terms.
Progress through research is being made. We have more methods than ever before for fighting breast cancer. The means of detecting breast cancer at an earlier stage and lowering our risk of getting the disease is ever-evolving. Until a cure is discovered though, breast cancer warriors will continue to battle the enemy one coup de ta ta at a time.