Tag Archives: triple negative

Survivors

19 Mar

I was talking with my Best Friend the other day about some bad news she had recently gotten. Many of you who know me know that she had a harrowing 2012, being diagnosed, treated for, and eventually overcoming, stage 2 breast cancer. It was triple negative. You can read about triple negative breast cancer here and learn why it is a scary diagnosis.  My friend was 36 when she got hers.

Anyway, said friend is doing great with a lovely new pair of boobs and a flatter tummy to boot.  But she has met and grown close with many other women during her journey, and learned that one friend had to have a hysterectomy because her cancer came back.  She was a newlywed and hoping to get pregnant.  😦

This made me think.  When we talk about being a SURVIVOR, what does that mean?  That one has escaped death?  I guess in the most literal sense, you are escaping death when you survive, but I think being a survivor is so much more.  My friend didn’t just survive breast cancer.  She endured despite (because of?) all she experienced while getting treatment.  When you survive something, you don’t just survive the event itself; you survive everyone else that didn’t.  You survive what you went through to come out of the other end, most likely very different than how you entered, if not just on the inside, maybe even on the outside.  You have battle scars and wounds that you wear proudly and you will never be the same again.

Her weekly trips to Hopkins were not exactly summer camp excursions.  She is likely to have more stories like this as time goes on, sad as that is.  But this makes her even more of a survivor to me.  I imagine the diagnosis of cancer is not nearly as scary as chemo, surgery, mastectomies, or the pain she feels when she hears of another fallen comrade.  Of these things, she is a survivor, too. I tended to think that after this surgery of hers (see “boobs” above), that it was pretty much over.  But she is now inextricably linked to this culture, and these other women that crossed her path on her journey.  And to endure the loss of another friend, well– that, to me, might be the worst part of being a survivor.

We are all survivors, though, aren’t we?  Everyone has a story.  Look at us.  Marriage. Relationships.  Breakups. Divorce. Fertility treatments.  Pregnancies that made us so sick we thought we’d never get out of bed or gain weight.  Painful births.  The scar of a c-section after 2 hours of pushing.  Mothers. Sisters. Wives. Daughters.  The decision to stay home with our children, or go back to work, either one an agonizing decision to make with equal downsides.  Caring for ailing relatives. Sacrificing. Dealing with illness. Admitting we need help.   We are all survivors.   As women, this is part of the hand we are dealt, and we all must survive. And every day, we grow stronger.

Being a “mom” before I had kids was so one dimensional to me. I only knew how to be a daughter.  Now I know that “mom” isn’t just a dictionary definition of a maternal parent, but a symbolic representation of the greatest and strongest type of survivor.   It is entry into a club that you can’t even fathom until you get there.  It is looking at life through a new and permanent kind of lens.  It is seeing every human being as somebody else’s baby.  It is truly understanding why God made Woman.  It is feeling connections with other mothers through a single look, because that’s all it takes to say the thousands of words we want to say to each other.

I would imagine that surviving cancer is like most things in life, in that you can’t understand it until you’ve gone through it.  I would never presume to.  And my friend is one of quiet contemplation, not a boisterous noisemaker like me, making it something even more individual, complex and unique.  The next time I see someone who has gone through cancer, I won’t just see someone that beat a disease, I will see someone that survived two lifetimes worth of battles.

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