Monday, October 24, 2011

Think Pink: Cancer's Silent Victims with Nancy O'Berry

Today we have another special guest on the blog! Please welcome Nancy O'Berry with a special post from a different perspective - and she's also giving a copy of her book, Stormy Weather away so read on! Thanks for sharing with us, Nancy!


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!

23 comments:

  1. What an inspiring post, Nancy. My Dad was diagnosed with cancer last year and, thank all powers that be, had successful surgery. His prognosis is excellent, but you are so right - none of our lives will ever be quite the same, and you discover inner strength you never dreamed you had.

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  2. Oh, Jennie, you said it so perfectly- inner strength. You do learn so much more about how to savor life. I am so glad your dad is a survivor. Congratulations on standing strong and enjoy each and every day. What a gift you have been given. My hugs to both of you.

    Nan

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  3. Thank you for the post, Nancy! It's written so well, and made me cry.

    We've had cancer in our family, as well, and it's really tough to handle, but Jennie, you're so right. I'm also glad your dad had successful surgery.

    Nancy, I'm proud of you for hanging in there with your family members. Thank you for posting, and Donna, thank you for having Nancy here!

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  4. Ah, thanks Markee. Cancer touches each and everyone of our lives whether we are friends or family. Support is crucial to the patient and the care givers. Sometimes just a hug is monumental. Thanks for stopping by.

    Nan

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  5. By the way, don't you just love how Donna has turned her site pink for the occasion. Whoo Hoo, thank you Donna.

    Nan

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  6. Thanks for this post Nancy. My aunt fought her breast cancer with radiation and vegetarian diet for twenty years. She often told me how her chest burned from inside. Eventually she lost the battle.
    My mother had two cancers the same year, and went through a mastechtomy and six months later through surgery in her mouth. They removed her lower jaw teeeth and lymph glands in her neck. Her life changed as she could only eat mashed food. They didn't leave enough bone in the jaw for her to wear a denture. But she was prettier than ever as they pulled the skin of her face while doing the surgeries. She looked twenty years younger and compensated for losing her joy in eating by buying lot of clothes and dressing very nicely. She was eighty and a widow, and she refused to have radiation or chemo. The cancer didn't spread. She lived twelve more years. As a result my own doctor stopped giving me hormones.

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  7. Bless you Mona, You have hit on an important fact. Children of cancer survivors must keep an open dialogue with their doctors. Because we before anyone else begin to see the same symptoms. If your doctor seems to ignore your concerns, by all means find a doctor that takes you seriously. Its very important. I'm so glad your mother had some wonderful times after her surgery. Better yet, you had chance to see her shine. Thanks for coming by.

    Nan

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  8. kelley D10:16 AM

    Just made my mammogram appt. this am!!

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  9. WHOO HOOO do you hear all that clapping. Yes, its not a fun visit but it out weighs the alternative. Thank you, Kelley for doing that. I'm so glad and before long you'll be singing, "Thanks for the Mammories". Remind each and every woman in your family to do the same as Kelley. Get those yearly exams. Hold a pink day at your place of business. We can beat this. Hugs, Nan

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  10. Nancy, thank you for a moving post. My family and I are so thankful that no one close has been diagnosed with it so far. But even if it's a friend or distant relative, there are repercussions.

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  11. You are so right Paperback. It's almost awkward. People are unsure what to say, what to do. The best thing you can do for a friend, is be a friend. Warm words, hugs, a meal or two and a good shoulder to lean on or to let off steam to when things get tight.

    Thanks for coming by.

    Nan

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  12. As I started reading your post the Martina McBride song you mentioned came to me even before I reached the point in your blog where you mentioned it. I always get tears in my eyes when I hear that song. My dad died of pancreatic cancer almost 12 years ago, but my mom, sisters, brothers and even some of his older grandchildren took care of him in his home for the last 2 months of his life. He died at home with all of us around him. It was a very profound time for all of us and we felt truly blessed to be a witness to his strength of will and also the strengh of the love he left with of us.

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  13. Ah Janet, hugs. You know first hand how hard it is to pick up those pieces. Life sometimes seems to move on and now you are running to catch up. You will always carry a piece of your father with you. That Martina McBride song is so powerful. Bless you and your family. I hope you will always know that you are so special. The gift you gave your dad was fantastic. I so wish I could have done the same for my mom. Unfortunately, I just couldn't lift on her, but I had wonderful doctors and nurses who really rallied around to help. YOU are a super hero.

    Nancy

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  14. Nancy, a beautiful post. I was 18 when first smacked in the heart with it and about a year later lost my beloved grandfather. I more recently lost my uncle to the same kind of cancer. I do what I can to be proactive, eating lots of veggies, fruits, whole grains, avoiding radiation as much as possible such as dental Xrays. I didn't even get a head Xray when my doctor said my skull was likely cracked. They couldn't fix it anyway. Why add the radiation? I also do not do mammograms for the same reason. I read that women who have Xrays on the top half of their bodies are three times as likely to develop breast cancer, so unless there's a family history ... I'd rather do my own checks and be careful, as well as avoiding HRT and such. I know I'm arguing conventional theory, but I have a very strong belief that too many "preventatives" are spreading it.

    Anyway, I also have survivor friends and am appalled that 1 in 3 men and 1 in 5 women are expected to get some type of this nasty disease.

    Don't put me in for the drawing since I have your book in my to-read pile on my ereader. Glad you reminded me of it!

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  15. Oh first thank you for having my book in your TBR pile. You are right, knowing your history and your body are great starts in fighting this disease. And yes, I'm glad you brought up the point that men can also get breast cancer. So ladies, when you are loving that DH or yours why not give him his own breast exam! Waggling eyebrows. He might thank you for it. I'm so glad you stopped by. Thank you again for your comments and the great hello.
    Nancy

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  16. Just left a long comment that disappeared...BLECH! My niece died of triple negative breast cancer 2 1/2 years ago, at the age of 39. She was one of the most intelligent, honest, genuinely "GOOD" people I've ever known, and she had a voice that was just beautiful, too. She left behind a little 6 year old girl. My sister (her mother) also had breast cancer, but it was the mildest form you could have, and she is fine now. I never miss a mammogram. Hugs to everyone who's commented. I can see there are a lot of heroines here!
    Cheryl

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  17. Yes there are! My gosh, so young! I'm so glad that you keep those yearly appointments up. You go girl!
    Nancy

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  18. Ah, I was unclear. Sorry. They had colon cancer, so I particularly try to keep my system clean for that, to include stress relief methods because the acid from worry..

    Hugs to all other affected here.

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  19. Great post Nancy! My aunt went through breast cancer on my step-dad's side of the family and we've been through the roller coaster ride of emotions the last two months with my younger half sister having to go back into the hospital for outpatient biopsies of lumps that keep appearing on her breasts. It really is something we just never planned to have to face as a possibility. As a result, I've been very faithful about my mammogram appointments.

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  20. Thanks Maria. I'm glad you are keeping each other company on that emotional ride. Many of us never plan on Cancer that is what makes it so wicked striking or waiting a generation to strike again. Hang in there and give your sister a hug for me. I'll keep her in my prayers.

    Nancy

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  21. Wow, I have had a great day here with all the ladies. Because you've been so gracious, I'm sending Susan G. Komen a check for twenty dollars in honor of our chat. I will let Donna know who was chosen to receive a print copy of Stormy Weather. Thanks to all of you for making this a fantastic day. Thanks to Donna for allowing me to share her beautiful blog.

    Nancy

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  22. Nancy, thanks so much for being here. I meant to pop in earlier (I've been reading all the comments as they hit my inbox!) but real life got squirrelly about 3p.m yesterday afternoon.

    How generous of you to donate to Susan G Komen today - wow! And I'll be sure to post the winner of your book as soon as you've drawn a name.

    D xx

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  23. Good Morning all, I have the pleasure of saying that Maria D. was drawn from the cut this a.m. by my son the fire fighter. If you will get in touch with me at yesitsromance@yahoo.com with your snail mail address and I will get this book autographed and out to you. Thank you all for chiming in.

    Nancy

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