Monday, March 14, 2011

Taking Things Personally

My dad called me last week. He calls me every time there's "some sort of weather", as he would put it. Having just pulled in the driveway from being at the gym, all I wanted was to get inside and get a shower. When he said my stepmother had some news, I could tell from his tone of voice that she hadn't won the lottery.

"They found something on my last mammogram. The biopsy results came back. I have DCIS."

My stepmother has breast cancer.

The words 'early' and 'non-invasive' were mentioned, and while I know that those are both good terms considering what we're talking about, I can't escape the fact that my stepmother, one of my best, closest friends for the past 16 years, has breast cancer.

For the most part, both she & I have received a tremendous outpouring of love & support. Prayers, good vibes, thoughts, offers to talk and listen have tumbled in. And yet, the one comment that continually sticks out to me is one from someone I've never met who said, "Well now your fight against breast cancer is personal."

Really? Just now? It wasn't personal before? Because I wasn't aware of that fact.

Maybe I've been remiss in sharing my story, so please allow me to give you the Reader's Digest version:

A little over 3 years ago, I watched my friend & coworker, Patty, start to turn in to someone I no longer recognized. She began coming in to work later and later, made glaring mistakes on reports, and would get easily confused. After calling her husband one day when we found her sleeping in her office, Patty's doctors discovered that the breast cancer they had thought she had been clear of for 5 years had metastasized to her brain. She began suffering seizures, went through test after test after test, and even had brain surgery to remove the mass. In the end, none of it worked. She passed away the week before Christmas that year, leaving behind 3 children and a husband. She was 47.

My godmother, Aunt Joan, has beat breast cancer twice. The last time was about a year and a half ago. She had two types in the same breast. After undergoing a mastectomy, her options for radiation were limited. She was very close to having already received the maximum amount allowed for a lifetime. Through much research, and refusing to take no for an answer, she is now cancer free. But she's not the same woman she used to be. She gets very tired very easily. She doesn't enjoy traveling like she used to. I won't go so far as to say that she's given up, but she's certainly giving in. Some days, I think I'm more bothered by that than if she would have passed away.

My fight against breast cancer has been personal from Day One.

But let's say that I didn't know anyone with breast cancer. Let's say that I was fortunate enough to not have lost someone to breast cancer. Would that make my efforts any less important or any less personal that someone else? Would that mean that I was participating in this for reasons with less meaning than others?

Don't allow someone else to tell you that your fight isn't personal. If you have the passion to fight breast cancer and the drive to participate in something like The 3 Day, I'm proud to stand next to you, no matter what your reasons are.


Nanda said...

Hi Abbie,

Well spoken!!
As you say, love is a verb, it requires action.
I don't know you at all, but what I read about you now and all the things you do for Remember Betty, you are a person with passion to me. And I love you for it.
Keep going, keep doing what you feel you need to do and do not let anybody tell you how you should act and/or feel.

The Netherlands

sheila said...

You said that beautifully!