Friday, November 1, 2019

October is Over

October is over.

*long exhale*

October is a hard month filled not only filled with breast cancer reminders and pink ribbons but also with dissonance and discord across the cancer community.

Besides cheap candy, October is filled with grief, frustration, anger and sadness for me. 

While I spend eleven months of every year pushing, pulling, prodding and pleading for acceleration of research and access to quality care for all cancer patients, I always seem to take a step back in October. Never intentionally, it just unfolds that way.

Every August, I create elaborate plans to share personal stories of fellow breast cancer advocates and friends in the breast cancer community. Every September I think through how I might explain the difference between patient, research and policy advocacy to those who otherwise don’t make a distinction. And every October 1st, I find myself overwhelmed by the noise that has become, for many of us #Pinktober.

Calls to “Save the Ta Tas” mixed with “Think Before You Pink” drowned out by the knowledge that, despite every advocate’s best efforts, over 100 people die EVERY DAY from breast cancer. After six years in the community, many of these people are not just statistics, they are my friends.

And then there is the dissonance & discord between the patient/survivor/thriver community which tears me apart every time. People diagnosed with early stage disease, desperately trying to get through their day-to-day treatments and trauma who find themselves verbally facing off with people diagnosed with metastatic disease who are doing the EXACT same thing but with a reality that says they will never, EVER be done with this disease unless they die of something else first. This disconnect is real. And it breaks my heart. 

And so I am quiet. Unnaturally so. For 31 days.

I’ll call out the start of the month; I’ll call out October 13th, the single day “dedicated” to metastatic breast cancer. And then I’ll just put my head down and try to support and amplify the good messaging, the collaborative messaging that is out there.

Oh, I’ll still call people out on the misnomer of “prevention,” but I’m pretty quiet overall. And, for those who know me, that silence is uncharacteristic.

By the time we get to Halloween, I’m emotionally spent having vacillated between anxiety over the discord, guilt for not using my outside voice and pure, unbridled anger at the corporations and institutions that have profited off of a hideous disease under the guise of support.

So today is November. Today is a deep breath. Today is self-absolution for my month of quiet. Today is vocal appreciation for everyone who worked their asses off trying to move the needle last month. 

Today is gratitude for everyone who checked on me and understands, without judgement, my need to take a step back. Today is the day I apologize to those who don’t understand - I'm sorry you feel let down. Today is the day I have (another) ugly cry for all those that we’ve lost and all those we will lose. 

Today is the day I pick myself up from the puddle of grief, dry myself off, and move forward with the urgency and earnestness that our community deserves every single day.

Just a few of those who have inspired, taught, motivated and advocated with me.
Thank you. I love you.