I started this post a little while ago and have been coming back to it over the last week or so trying to figure out what I want to say, what I feel about today and the purpose of today. If this post feels disjointed that’s because that’s the way I feel right now in the midst of all the racial turmoil and the pandemic in this country. I suppose this is my disclaimer if you find me scattered right now.
Let me first say that I don’t begrudge the men and women who have finished cancer treatment and are able to get back to their lives. I know that even though the formal treatment may be over, the experience and trauma of breast cancer stays with each person who has heard those words … “you have cancer.” If you are in this category, celebrate to your hearts content, use whatever colors make you happy and revel in this holiday. It is meant for you and you know what it feels like to survive.
For those of us living with terminal cancer, we have survived this long and I know that many embrace the label survivor with gusto. This holiday is for us too, to acknowledge what we’ve gone through and continue to go through every single day. If you are in this category, celebrate to your hearts content, use whatever colors make you happy and revel in this holiday. It is meant for you and you know what it feels like to face death every day and survive anyway.
For those of you who are newly diagnosed or still in the active treatment stage where you are facing surgeries and chemo and pain and vomiting and nausea and fatigue, this holiday is for you too. You have survived to this point. You may have other hurdles to cross and the treatment may seem interminable; at the same time, you made it to today. If you are in this category, celebrate to your hearts content, use whatever colors make you happy and revel in this holiday. It is meant for you and you know what it feels like to face getting up every day, going to treatment and surviving.
For those of you who have lost loved ones to cancer, I think this holiday is for you also. I know, it doesn’t seem like it, but hear me out. Your loved one did survive cancer. They lived with cancer. Their lives are more than cancer. While cancer may have murdered them, that does not define their lives, how they lived defines their lives.
Yesterday, we lost a wonderful woman to stage IV metastatic breast cancer. I say “we” because every loss in the metastatic community sends shockwaves through us all. Karin Petrocelli lived in Florida, as I do, and she was a force of nature. I spent two amazing Stampedes with her in Washington, DC, where we advocated with other Floridians for necessary law changes for metastatic patients. Florida usually has the largest group and we are loud and persistent and so much stronger together. Karin was a tireless fundraiser, hosting the SWFL Metsquerade in early 2020 for the third year in a row AFTER entering hospice.
The funds Karin raised wouldn’t and won’t help her since research takes 10-15 years on average to lead to medication that someone can actually take. Her efforts and contributions will be felt by so many who will never learn her name, never know her smile, never know who she was.
So, celebrate today, lift up those men and women who are survivors, surviving, and looking forward. Tomorrow, we need to get to work. Karin deserves that, my dear friend Emily Garnett who I miss every day deserves that, and all the amazing men and women we’ve lost to cancer, they all deserve every ounce of effort we can give to eradicate this disease that takes and takes and takes and takes.
We are all more than cancer.