Dear Loved One,
Today is Valentine’s Day.
I have no candy or flowers to give. The only heart that I am offering is mine.
I have breast cancer.
I can see that this makes you sad. And scared. And helpless, especially helpless. You don’t know what to say or do to make me feel better. I get it. And appreciate it. I truly do. But I have some requests.
First, please honor that just as I am unique, so is my breast cancer. I am not just talking clinically. I want you to see and feel that my cancer is individually all mine, emotionally and financially and physically and really in every possible way.
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How can you honor this?
Again, I know you are trying to help, but please, please don’t tell me about how your friend (or neighbor or niece) cured her cancer doing x, y, or z and that the only thing holding me back from my cancer being cured is because I am not doing the same.
Guess what? I may have tried x, y, and z just to find that my breast cancer is sticking around. Or I may not be able to or want to or can afford to do the things that worked for someone else. Hearing about your friend (or neighbor or niece) leaves me weirdly conflicted. I am happy for her, yet I am left wondering if I am flawed or broken.
Not your intent, I know, but I can’t help it. That’s how I feel, though you wouldn’t know it from my polite smile.
Speaking of smiles, there are some days I just don’t want to. On those days, I don’t want to wear pink or be a warrior. I don’t want to look on the bright side and stay positive. Or keep a stiff upper lip. Some days I want to scream or cry or talk or stay silent. And I want you – need you – to be there with me. Hear me howl at the pain. Allow my tears of frustration and fear to flow until my body convulses. Listen, just listen, to everything I have to say. And sit with me in silence.
I need to be alive with you in our vulnerability. Without you trying to fix it or me. Without you ever telling me that everything happens for a reason. Or that my cancer is part of someone’s plan. Or that there are rainbows after a storm. I need you to never say this to me or really to anyone who is sick or suffering a loss of any kind. The only person that expressions like those help are the person who is saying them. Sorry to be so blunt, but it’s the truth.
Just as I need you to let me be alive in my truth, I need you to be alive in yours. Admit to me that you don’t know how to help me or you don’t know what to say. Tell me how helpless you feel. And scared and frustrated. I am strong. I can handle it. We can handle it. But only if we share in our truth together.
Breast cancer. I know, those words are scary and they make you want to hide and avoid me. Please don’t. I am still me and you are still you and let’s not let two words change that.
I have given you my heart today. All I ask in exchange is for you to give me yours.