To hear that your mother, sister, or aunt has breast cancer changes your outlook on life. It's not a single diagnosis, but an all-encompassing crusade that a family and a family member will wage for the rest of their lives. In that fleeting first moment, that one sentence, "you have cancer," will change everything and nothing you ever do will be the same. In that instant, the burden is shifted to your shoulders to become their pillar of strength. In that second breath, you realize how quickly your odds at hearing the same words have increased.
The word cancer is a game changer. You are speechless. Thoughts rush through your brain. How did this happen to my mother? She went to church, to synagogue, to confession every week. She is a perfect example. How could God betray them this way? How could this be happening? Surely, there is a mistake. But, there is not. You sit beside them as the doctors explain the diagnosis, the treatment, and you wonder what will happen next. You think about the pictures of women without hair, the IV's, the hospitals. You reach out. Your hands touch. Fingers intertwine and you hold on - for life.
In many ways, the family of the cancer patient are the silent victims of this disease. I know, because I am one of the hundreds of thousands who have lived through this scenario not once, but three times. You see, my mother and her sisters, all three were diagnosed with breast cancer. All three went through mastectomies and while breast cancer didn't claim them per se, side effects or the disease mutating to other forms did. The golden lining in this is that my mother and her sisters showed me that to overcome cancer's attempt to ravage not only one's body, but your character ,makes you become a far better person than even you imagine.
Psychologists give you seven stages of grief. Cancer families go through each one of those almost with every doctor's appointment you make. The shock and disbelief never goes away. You pray that this is the one trip where things turn out better. You deny the existence of the disease praying that maybe it will have gone away. You bargain with God asking for it to be you instead, or say if you take this away, I will be better. You glance at your loved one and feel guilt because all you can do is provide love and support. You cannot take this burden away. You - the family- become that silent victim. This is the reality of Cancer. Having the disease is a family affair and fighting it takes so much more.
Anger and frustration set in but you can't show your family member this. It has to be held within or expressed when you are not within hearing distance of your loved one. You are furious that this disease has taken your bright tomorrows, their ability to feel secure, and their physical appearance. Worse, you can't stop it. You have to rely on the intangibles, drugs, surgery, radiation to stem the tide of this black plague. Your power 'to make things all right' is now null and void. You suddenly find you need your own support system so that you can maintain that level of strength your loved one needs. It is hard to smile through the cascade of tears that seem to never stop inside. A family member can drown in the sea of overwhelming helplessness that engulfs cancer families.
Then how do you cope? The answer is simple; often many of us cope through laughter. We find that deep strength inside our own selves we never knew existed. The Martina McBride song, I'm gonna love you through it, is an example of the strength, the support, the laughter families struggling to overcome cancer go through. In that video, we see a gentleman with a tattoo, Cancer Sucks, on his arm. He probably wouldn't have gotten that had a family member not had cancer and he needed a way to show support. In that video, you hear the desperation in voices. You know they are reaching out and need to find a way to show support.
In October, we celebrate the good fight, the winners against the greatest evil. Go to those walks for life and watch. You will see survivors, because they can be there. You will also see behind them others - because their loved one can't. The acceptance of the spirit to survive when the body can't is the hardest part for the silent victims of cancer. It may come to you to have to lean down and whisper, "It's okay, I love you, but it's okay to let go."
Inside, every memory you have plays itself out as you watch. You hold their hand, you stroke their brow, you feel their last breath, and you understand they have transferred their courage to you. It takes big shoes to pick up that banner and become the new face of cancer - the face of hope. They have taught you the steps and put in your hands the will to carry on the fight. You will not let them down.
So join the battle. Support Susan G. Komen for the cure. Stand up, become a voice and remind a loved one to get that yearly mammogram. If you know a person or a family struggling with the disease, remember not only those fighting but those standing behind who need your support as well.
I will pick a commenter at random today to win a print copy of my tribute to survivors of breast cancer Stormy Weather. Let's all step up and work for a cure!
http://www.amazon.com/Stormy-Weather-Nancy-OBerry/dp/1604358610/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1318608913&sr=1-1 print at $8.99
http://www.amazon.com/Stormy-Weather-ebook/dp/B003WJRH5C/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1318609012&sr=1-1-catcorr Ebook at $2.99
http://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-stormyweather-412924-148.html ebook for $2.99