Written by someone with stage four breast cancer – anonymous,
As I sit down to write this article my mind is spinning — regardless of the repercussions, I feel a burning need to share my thoughts.
I write this because I have been marginalized, cast aside by a community. Frankly, if this was any other community I would have called them out long before now.
This community has enough to deal with, even beyond me shedding light to the controversy.
Metastatic breast cancer community, listen up — it is time for me to provide another, lesser-known point-of-view.
The impact cancer had on my life.
I am a mets patient. Yes, I do sometimes feel anger, sadness, and even grief; I had a whole other side to my life that simply vanished due to my diagnosis. However, I have chosen to embrace the life that I have been given, warts and all.
It is clear that nothing is guaranteed in this world, and instead of focusing on what has been taken away from me, I am choosing to focus on what has been given to me. Even though it may seem like my life was thrown off course by cancer, I still have many blessings.
No, I am not delusional or living in a fairy tale. I lost half of my immediate family to a cancer that was so swift, they didn’t have time to even acknowledge their diagnosis. They were diagnosed and deceased within 30 days.
The cancer was so aggressive — it was a race, a literal dash to finish paperwork, tend to passwords, and pay the bills. There was no time to take in that last sunset. No time to appreciate the last bite of a favorite meal.
I would have done just about anything to have given them more time.
Living with stage four cancer.
I don’t blame members of the mets community for being pissed off once told they have a terminal diagnosis.
Yes, I get it. I received the same news. It took me years, a bunch of treatments, and a lot of sobbing on my bathroom floor to come to these realizations that I hold so dear now.
For every low, there is its undeniable counterpart.
For every moment that I am on my knees on the bathroom floor, sick, pale, and begging to be put out of my misery — there is my kid making a shot in a basketball game. During another treatment, I endure it without complaint because I know my kid’s science fair is coming up.
Despite the nights where I am lying on the floor, pleading and bargaining with the universe to make the pain cease, there is the beautiful “bring-me-to-my-knees-for-a-whole-different-reason” kind of moments.
I am humbled by my 31-year-old brother that cancer stole from this world. Or my 38-year-old friend who doesn’t get to see her son grow past the age of three.
While I am devastated that cancer robbed them of those memories, I am immensely grateful for each moment I get to be here.
This year is seven years that I have lived with stage IV metastatic breast cancer. Seven years of scans, treatments, biopsies, worry, and exhaustion. Seven years of watching my friends, my mom, my dad, and my younger brother die of cancer.
This has also been seven years of love.
Seven years of sunsets.
It has been seven years of smiles, tears, and incredible growth.
Seven years of watching my three preschoolers grow into tweens and teens.
Seven years of birthdays, sweet summers, and seasons.
I have been gifted seven years of life.
I feel a deep, aching sadness and resolve to make every moment that I am on this earth count.
Think before you pink.
In seven years I have seen many of the beautiful people surrounding me buy the pink blender, the pink hair extensions, or the pink bracelet.
They buy the merchandise in the name of love and kindness. I don’t fault them, scream and yell at them, scold them, or judge them.
Is abolishing pink and the month of October the answer? I don’t think so.
For this, I find myself ostracized by a metastatic world filled with self-proclaimed “stars” of the mets community. I find myself hiding and quietly advocating under the radar because I don’t agree with the aggressive, in-your-face style that has been enforced.
After all, my metastatic breast cancer is not a marketing campaign!
Sure, my style differs from many of my metastatic sisters — but I have learned over the course of seven years that if I dare point out these differences, I shall be bullied on social media, or at conferences, being cast aside from the community.
I can’t help but wonder – where is the love?
The dark side of the mets community.
I have hesitated to write this piece for at least five years, knowing that inevitable hate mail lies in my wake. Being shunned by the metastatic community leaves me feeling quite vulnerable and alone. However, in order to live my most authentic life, I must separate myself from the aggressive, anger filled language that is present in parts of the mets community.
There are ways to advocate that don’t involve hate filled language and attention seeking stunts.
If I am banished from the mets community for my beliefs – perhaps the mets community isn’t comprised of “my people” after all.
The reality is I refuse to use my cancer as a platform to propel my own agenda or anoint myself as an inspiration while surrounding myself with an entourage of “yes” people.
Good advocacy work is done through love and kindness rather than through anger and rage. More people want to connect, listen, and act when they are treated with appreciation and support.
Maybe others in the metastatic community will join me? Could there be others that have been hiding in fear like I was?
I guess there are bullies everywhere, and let’s face it, cancer doesn’t discriminate.
Whether anyone agrees with me or not, I will suck in that sweet sunset, savor the last bite of my favorite meal, and hang on a little tighter when I go in for that hug.
Instead of hate, I choose love. Instead of fear, I choose acceptance. Most importantly, instead of wishing for all the things I don’t have, I will celebrate my blessings.
I will continue to appreciate every last breath that I am given because life is a gift — not a guarantee.
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Also published on Medium.