What is it about big illnesses like cancer that awake the sleeper cells of pagentry and celebration? I'm talking about the walks, runs, radio promotions, and all manner of public testimony about your disease. It is endless, the opportunity to lay yourself bare before semi-caring strangers. ("Oh, breast cancer," they're thinking. "Hope it's never me." Yes, you do hope that.)
I know, time was, if you had cancer no one even uttered that word. Maybe even you didn't know you had cancer. It was too awful to talk about. In the latter part of the 20th century we set about to change all that. And we did. The problem is, no one wants any limits on the discussion and the endless "sharing" of our stories. I know that no one in the Cancer Nation wants to bother me, but just once I would like a request for participation in an event to begin with the words, "We understand if you aren't interested, but we would like you to know about …"
Here are a few things I do not want to do just because I have been diagnosed with breast cancer:
1. Stand with 399 other women for a "bras across the bridge" moment. You're holding a bra (yours, maybe? one you don't need anymore? wink, wink) and you hook yours onto your neighbor's and form a giant chain of bras, so people will see … a chain of bras.
2. Buy a pink bracelet. Or wear one that's free.
3. Go on Christian radio.
4. Hand out refrigerator magnets reminding women to "feel your boobies."
5. Pose for a dreamy portrait of myself wearing my cancer cap, or worse, pose while I was bald.
Okay, so what is this blog about, right? It's a public statement about my experience, too.
I guess I am not one who finds comfort in numbers. This communication is to my friends and acquaintances, and yes, an occasional passing stranger reads it, too. But I'm not trying to get anyone to do anything. I don't think my "story" is going to change much for someone who's not a cancer patient, and as for those who are being treated for cancer, well, we pretty much know how to find each other, don't we?