Most of us have spent some time thinking about our own deaths. We do it with a sense of dreadful curiosity, but then we push it aside with “well, we’ve all got to go sometime.”
Unlike most people, I probably know the how, the why, and maybe even the when of that event. It is profound information that turns the world upside down for us, our families, friends and caregivers.
I have cancer that is incurable, aggressive, and has negligiblesurvival odds. My chemotherapy is a long shot. I will leave a spouse, children, siblings and a life that I love and cherish. I cannot imagine existence without them.
I have read the books about stages of grief and end of life. But when all is said and done, truth is the great measure. The truth between doctor and patient when there is nothing else to be done. The truth between patient and family who want desperately to have a few more months or days and cannot. The truth between patient and friends who must accept and move on without bitterness. The truth between patient and spouse, partner, or caregiver who have waited for that moment and are helpless to change it.
Recently, our city hosted the fifth annual national marathon to fight breast cancer. This is not part of the Komen “race for the cure” but rather a grassroots effort that mushroomed from its inception five years ago into the impressive event it is today. Thousands of people participate as runners, volunteers, and cheerleaders clad in the signature color. I must admit, seeing some grown men run twenty six miles wearing pink tu-tus is both awe inspiring and a testament to dedication over self-image.
Its supporters include corporate sponsors, vendors, and exhibitors, and (no surprise) pharmaceutical companies. Its originators are a local TV celebrity breast cancer survivor and a cancer physician at Mayo clinic. It promises to donate 100% of the money to breast cancer research or care. To date, the event has raised millions of dollars and has met its contribution promise. It’s all very worthy, noble and heartwarming.
So why do I get an embarrassingly annoyed feeling when the pink parade makes its way through my neighborhood? After all, isn’t it a victory that so many people today recognize the need for education and awareness about a terrible disease that kills 40,000 women a year? Of course it is. And I have met many women breast cancer survivors who have become warm wonderful friends and I am thrilled for the overwhelming support they have.
The frustration seems even more puzzling in light of the fact that I am a cancer survivor myself. I was diagnosed in 2010 with advanced primary peritoneal ovarian cancer, the most lethal of all gynecological cancers with an alarmingly small overall survival rate. So for the past two years of chemotherapy and difficult treatment, I have struggled to suppress what feels like a petty sentiment about all the pink attention. If I just own up to it, I feel left out and I really want a parade with everyone wearing teal in support of ovarian research and care. My cancer! My body part! A cure for me! Continue reading…