It was probably in 1998 when we attended our first Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Central Park. Mom had spent 1997 undergoing 2 separate mastectomies, and enduring chemo. Just to top it all off she began a run on 5 years of Tamoxifen.
By September of 1998 she was back to her feisty self, raring to go – so we went. We have gone almost every year since then, save for maybe 2003 when I gave birth to Meghan in August.
A few years ago a dear friend, a new survivor joined us. So one very early Sunday a year, we pile into my Mom’s car and head to Central Park. We look through the stands that are set up. We “shop” for some free goodies, and we pay for some too. Then we head back to the car and drop it all off so we are ready to walk among 25,000 or so survivors and supporters.
We push Meghan in her chair, as the 5K would be way too much for her, but she won’t do without cheering Grandma on. She makes Grandma a banner to hang on her shirt – usually a picture of the two of them. It is a morning of (exhausting) celebration.
So it was Meghan. It is always Meghan it seems, who pointed out to me about a week after my diagnosis of DCIS, that I needed a pink shirt for the race this year. When I asked her why she said, “because you had breast cancer too.”
I thought about that for a few minutes. It was early in the game so the ramifications of what I had been through had not yet fully sunken in. I guess technically she was right. I had the pathology report in my hand. It clearly said DCIS. The breast surgeon clearly called it cancer, and reminded me that a few more months would have put me in a “fight for my life.”
But I had been to those races for many years. I had looked at the resolve in the faces of the survivors. The bald heads of the women still in treatment, and I had read the signs and tributes to those who had fought and lost. I had watched my own Mom endure chemo and years of tamoxifen. Surely I couldn’t put myself in the same class with these ladies?
I suffer I guess with a bit of “survivors guilt.” Some people might chuckle at the thought that my road has been easy, but of course everything is relative, and it is all about perspective.
I did commit to a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy to reduce my imminent cancer risk. That in and of itself is a pretty big deal. Finding out I already had cancer, rocked my world. Knowing that I had already done everything possible to prevent any spread or recurrence, gave me some much needed peace of mind. Angels, especially two I love (one here on earth, and one in heaven) named Meghan, had already kept me from being hurt by Breast Cancer.
Do I deserve to be in the same ranks of these breast cancer survivors? I am not so sure.
But, I have this pretty pink shirt. And these fake boobs. Maybe that in and of itself makes it OK.
No matter what I will consider it an honor to walk among some of the strongest women I will ever know.