I am ending out the week with an adjusted version of something that I wrote in October. It's part of my promise to be A Fearless Friend. It's part of my commitment to make sure 40,000 lives are not buried beneath the pink ribbon. It is the part of Pink Ribbons Inc that continues to creep into my thoughts at random times during the day. It's because the three people whose lives I cherished most back in October when I picked up the cause have now died from breast cancer. All three of them. Within days, within hours of one another.
After the screening of the movie, there were girls who had questions about metastatic disease that I don't feel were properly addressed. I will find out who they were. One of them wore an MBCN T-shirt. I will answer their questions.
Respectfully. Properly. Those of us who remain on the other side of that stage 4 line of demarcation owe it to those whose disease has crossed that line to BE their Fearless Friends. To not be dismissive. To listen. This is how I felt on October 14th:
I take too much for granted. Because I am an over informed font of (mostly) useless information, sometimes I am stunned. Do you know that there is only one single day during the entire month of October, BREAST CANCER AWARENESS MONTH that is devoted strictly to raising awareness of Metastatic Breast Cancer? This was news to me. Metastatic disease should be on the front burner. Every day. In every month. Not a minute goes by, not ONE SINGLE MINUTE, that isn't tainted by a breast cancer death. And this is worthy of one day shoved in the midst of Pink Madness? I think not.
A show of hands? We are all aware that cancer can spread outside of the area where it began? Are we aware that a breast cancer patient whose disease has traveled outside the breast is still a BREAST CANCER patient? If the cancer decides, for example, to attack the brain, it's NOT brain cancer. It's breast cancer that has spread to the brain. Likewise, if a patient with lung cancer has a similar spread to the brain, it's NOT brain cancer. It's LUNG cancer that spread to the brain.
Why is this important? Quite simply, when cancer spreads, I generally hear things like, "First it was breast cancer, now she has lung cancer and bone cancer." There was a tweet chat the other night and the topic was metastatic disease. In the old days, we would simply say, "It spread." Maybe we need to just get off the big words and go back to basics.
While the pink banners are flying and the balloon arches are floating and the ribbons are pinned everywhere, MBC is pink, too. It's the pink that is on the bottom of the pile. It's buried. These aren't the feel good stories. These are the patients living in pain. In fear. And contrary to what some (ok ONE) have said, "THERE IS TOO MUCH PINK."
I'm sorry. I don't like pink ribbons and I don't like Bald Barbies either. Truthfully, I don't like Barbie at ALL as a representation of anything female. How was a group of people able to get Mattel to produce this damn Bald Barbie and why can't we perform a similar uproar to get some corporation to symbolically burn the damn ribbon? I'll tell you why. Breast cancer patients are expected to be the faces of hope. The success stories. Once the line is crossed, you are rapidly kicked out of The Club.
And then, only in very hushed tones will most whisper to only their closest friends,
"I have never been so afraid of anything in my entire life. I don't want to die."**
These are words that were recently repeated to me because some (many?) MBC patients prefer to close out most of the outside world.
And, these are the words that were spoken by a few during that online chat on Monday night: