Monday, December 19, 2022

Breast Cancer Camaraderie is Real

The breast cancer community is made up of men and women who understand the importance of camaraderie. By showing each other love and support, no one ever feels alone. 

One of my friends went in for a diagnostic mammogram today. She’d opted to keep her breasts after her diagnosis with cancer, while I did not. That means she'll continue to have routine mammograms periodically for the rest of her life. And while I can't judge her for her decision, I wish she didn't have to go through the trauma of constant testing.

Having your breasts removed doesn't guarantee you'll never have breast cancer again. It just means if it ever returns, no matter where it decides to show up, it'll still be considered breast cancer — metastatic breast cancer.
It's a bum rap if you ask me. It seems that if you lop off your breasts, your chances of a recurrence should be nil, but that's not the case. And that makes me nervous.
When my friend told me about her mammogram, I immediately put it on my phone calendar adding an alert one day in advance, so I’d be reminded to pray for her. I’d also put in an alert for the same day as the test. I wanted to shoot her a text message letting her know she was on my heart.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but her scheduled test affected me negatively. It felt like I was right there with her. I could almost see myself moving forward with the mammography machine in front of me. I could almost hear the technician telling me to hold still as she lowered the cold plate down onto my breast. I imagined feeling the pain of the plates squeezing my breast as the tech went through the imagine process and could feel myself exhale as the plates lifted and I was allowed to step away.

I was thankful I wasn’t there with my friend, but it sure felt like I had been.

Camaraderie in the cancer community is real. If you don’t believe me, check out some of the breast cancer Facebook groups. Whenever someone posts about an upcoming test or facing a fearful situation, her sisters will rally offering words of hope and encouragement.
We need each other.

That’s one of the most powerful things I realized as I was going through my diagnosis and treatment. I never felt alone, even when I was alone, because there were always others with me in spirit. We may have lived hundreds of miles apart, but I knew I could count on someone to be available whenever I needed them. They were only a few keystrokes away.

There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about the possibility of recurrence. I try not to dwell on it, but if I'm honest, I must admit the thought crosses my mind at least once, if not more, times a day.

I keep wondering how long it will take to forget about cancer. It's been eight years since I was diagnosed. You'd think that would be more than enough time to forget about it, but I haven’t been able to just yet.

My friend messaged me in the early afternoon on the day of her test. She’d thought she’d have the results the same day, but that wasn’t the case. I texted right back and told her I was praying for good results and told her not to worry. She said she’d let me know as soon as the results came in.

That night, I found myself thinking about her a lot. I wondered how she would react if the test revealed a recurrence of cancer. I imagined it would be devastating for her, but I also knew how strong she was. No matter what happened, good or bad, I felt in my heart she’d be OK.

Later the following day, she called and gave me the good news: no cancer recurrence! I was overjoyed for her and cried tears of happiness with her. It felt good to finally let out a sigh of relief. She expressed gratitude for my prayers, and I reminded her we both had much for which to be thankful.

Now she goes through another period of waiting. She’ll have a whole year to forget about cancer until time for her next mammogram and then, the process will start all over again.

In the meantime, I’m hoping she’ll take advantage of doing things she enjoys without feeling overshadowed by all the what ifs cancer brings. I’m going to do my best to be there for her celebrating the mundane. 

We don’t always have to focus on the big things. We can celebrate the small things, too. Those day-to-day occurrences we often overlook are just as important as the huge milestones. Taking a breath can be just as significant as letting one go.

Remember those high school days when you’d attend a pep rally before a football game? The cheerleaders would lead students in a string of rousing cheers that would get them “all fired up?” Well, the breast cancer community is like that. Camaraderie can help foster perseverance, strength, and hope. It’s a powerful force to love others and show them support.

I hope you’ll have the opportunity to be on someone’s support team. It will not only bless them, it will also bless you.

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