Thursday, March 31, 2011

Remembering the Fight

I met with a nice young woman yesterday. Jen is finishing up her master's degree and was given a list of breast cancer survivors' names, including mine, to contact. As a final part of her degree requirements, she is writing a paper which details the type and quality of support that breast cancer survivors received while going through cancer treatments. The endpoint for Jen's studies is finally within her view.

I was surprised at the feelings that surfaced within me as she asked the questions, one at a time, and proceeded to jot down my answers. Even though more than five years have passed since my breast cancer diagnosis, our brain is an amazing organ, allowing us to remember small details of past events as if they occurred just yesterday. Although I didn't cry during the interview, I could see how many people would become emotional as they described their experiences, or if they were indeed going through a recurrence, perhaps in the midst of treatments at the time of the interview.

For me, though, even though my treatments are now only a memory, just the simple act of recounting the events - the number of radiation and chemotherapy treatments, for example - left me feeling somewhat depressed, almost grieving. I felt as though I was reliving a part of me that I have, in some intangible way, put behind me. Oddly, as I walked through this journey again yesterday with Jen, something occurred to me. Although she appeared kind in her demeanor, her furrowed brows and facial expressions revealed to me that she really couldn't understand what it was like to deal with all the fatigue, nausea, family issues, and uncertainties that people with cancer face on a daily basis. Unmarried and without children, Jen didn't know what I do: that cancer is so much more than just an obstacle that we hurdle and then move past it. No, cancer is an everyday fight - for the rest of your life.

The real truth is, I didn't know what it was like, either. I didn't really know how to fight, not until it happened to me.

Which is why I'd like to start a support group in my area. I haven't any idea about how to initiate such an adventure, and I welcome anyone who could point me in the right direction. If you have any advice about how to get a breast cancer support group started, please let me know.

I'll never forget the feelings and emotions that go along with this journey. My hope is that I can help others remember to keep fighting, too.