I’m pissed she has cancer.
My husband was the first to share the news with me. Julia Louis-Dreyfus just announced via twitter that she is 1 in 8.
1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their life. And she is one in eight. She has breast cancer.
Maybe you are unfamiliar with her name. Maybe instead you know her as Selena from Veep or Elaine from Seinfeld. But regardless, another person has cancer.
This last week, in a group of 15 women at my bible study, 2 had prayers for people who are either newly-diagnosed or in the midst of treatment. With breast cancer. And that was just this week. And I added, “it feels like these days you can’t throw a rock in a room without hitting a person who has breast cancer…”
And the minute I share with anyone that I’ve been through breast cancer treatment, I hear of their connection to the disease. Everyone knows someone.
This last year, people flocked around Shannen Dougherty as she bravely and openly shared her life during chemotherapy. A few years in the past, Sheryl Crow openly shared her diagnosis. And other celebrities including Giuliana Rancic, Robin Roberts, Christina Applegate, Hoda Kotb, Olivia Newton-John, Wanda Sykes, Maggie Smith, Kylie Minogue… and so many more; breast cancer… it feels like it’s everywhere. In everyone.
And that’s just the famous people.
And I’m pissed.
I honestly never got angry about having breast cancer in my own body. I remember asking my therapist why I hadn’t gotten mad. I kept waiting for it to hit me. I was sad. Scared. Anxious. And a host of a million other emotions. But anger… I guess I felt like maybe if I got it ONE less other person would.
But gosh darn it all. That isn’t the case. Every week I meet or hear from or pray for or am reached out by a family member or friend of another person who has just received their own diagnosis. And it doesn’t discriminate upon whom it preys. Old or young. Happy or sad. Smokers and non. Black or white. Man or woman. Rich or poor. All different types of humans from all different walks of life have cancer. And I feel like I hear it more and more and more. Every. Day.
Maybe it’s just like the whole red car phenomenon. Do you know what I’m talking about? I buy a red car and suddenly, every other person seems to have a red car. Maybe my breast cancer is my red car. I get breast cancer and suddenly, I am like Scooby-Doo with my ears perked up and wagging side to side. Radar up. Honing in on the word cancer like it’s my job. Maybe more people don’t have cancer than ever before. Maybe I’m just more sensitive to it.
Or maybe they do.
Maybe more and more people are being diagnosed with some kind of cancer. More young people are receiving a life-altering diagnosis. More people that never even had any reason to think they would fall victim to the clutches of this toxic monster are being delivered the words, “you have cancer.”
And people are still losing their battles.
And I’m pissed.
I was able do the treatment. I could get through. I got to survive. My diagnosis had a path to go down that could lead back to a cancer-free life. There were treatments available to me. I could do it because once I found out it was wreaking havoc in my cells, there was no other choice at age 33 but to attempt all attempts to oust the asshole.
But no one else — not one more human. Not someone old who has “lived a great life.” Not someone who is 35. And for goodness sakes, NOT A CHILD. I would be so endlessly joyful after making it through the rigors of treatment, to hear that it’s V day — Victory. Freedom for all people from the big C.
And yet, every day, someone — and obviously, more than just some “one” — because according to the American Cancer Society (acs.org) in 2017 1,688,780 humans are projected to be diagnosed. And that doesn’t even include noninvasive cancers (save urinary bladder) or basal cell carcinoma. What does that mean? It means a shit ton of people are going to hear the life-altering/shattering/and sometimes ending words, “you have cancer.” And some will live through it. And others will die because of it.
And the minute I talk to a new patient, I spring into action. I know they don’t need me to commiserate or pity them or cry for them. There are plenty of people in their camps for the emotional stuff. My job as a fellow survivor is to tell them I know it sucks, but they will survive. It’s to laugh about the parts of it that you can only laugh about once you’ve been there. And to tell them they are warriors. Because you know they are.
Damn. Damn. Damn. When is it going to stop?
I just don’t know that it is going to. And I hate that.
The doctors, at least the ones I know, they are fighting these antagonists with a vengeance. The brilliant minds who research all of the types and meds and therapies, they are working tirelessly. And the patients — those warriors who are dealt a ribbon for their troubles — they… or I guess… WE… are doing everything we can to kick ass, take names, and live the shit out of this disease.
But it’s still here. Cancer.
And every time I hear that she has cancer. Or he has cancer.
Or another has lost their battle. Or another will spend their whole life fighting. Every time. I bow my head and give a silent prayer that maybe someday the word will not make me mad because it will only be spoken of in history books and medical journals. Maybe someday cancer will be a thing of the past. And maybe the 1 in 8 will become 0.
And on that day, I will rejoice. I will live my life with every bit of gusto that runs through my veins. And I will be so happy to have survived. Because not everyone gets that option.