the girl in this image isn't me. but sometimes it feels like she could be. when people find out you have breast cancer, it's amazing the number of times you hear 'good thing you're so strong!' or 'good thing you're a fighter katy,' etc. but so far, in my limited breast cancer (rookie) experience, i can't say i'm as strong as i may be perceived. it's a compliment i realize, when these things are said. but until this diagnosis, my idea of strength included lifting heavy pieces of vintage furniture on and off the bed of my pickup to be delivered for painting, only to be heaved back up again when they're ready for delivery to stores.
fight in my mind had generally involved yelling and slamming an occasional door. add a few not quite g-rated words, and you get the idea. a so called cancer fight simply was never part of my vernacular. how does showing up on time for the countless appointments regarding testing and surgical procedures constitute any kind of fight? to me it felt more like surrender.
and yet, as i navigate this rookie status, i realize it does involve some sort of effort. (fight?) you have to do something, regardless of how you perceive it. sure, you can do nothing i suppose, not even battle at all. and i know of a few people who have done this, though that's not part of my 'fighting nature.' call it strength or fight if you want. i'm still not there yet. (rookie) fighting? sure. i guess so. if you say so. but is it?
i see the other patients at massey cancer center, so much more debilitated than i am, unable to walk or even breathe on their own. more than a few in upbeat scarves or colorful hats, covering bald heads which i imagine would still be freezing in this january cold. how tough do i really have to be, when i'm nowhere near where they are? they are the seasoned ones, having moved past rookie status a pretty good while ago. those are the ones really fighting here, not me. they are the ones with skin in the game. my hat goes off to them, and yet that doesn't feel fair either. tipping my hat would simply reveal my hair underneath. if i were them, i'd wonder what i was doing there too.
if i'm so strong, and such a fighter, then how come i'm not one of them? i'm supposed to be tough, remember? but i'm not, you can probably tell that by now. it is painful seeing those patients in their varying degrees of diminished strength. they're the strong ones, as i see it, fighting so much harder and longer than me.
but what i've learned so far at massey, is that cancer is cancer. it's a flipping cancer center after all. the staff there makes everyone feel like they're on the same team, an especially cool thing. even the rookies, right along side the wiley old veterans, the outfielders, pitchers, and catchers, we're all on the same stinkin' bus. the myriad of specialists seem to serve as our coaches, leading a team no one signed up to play on. but here we are.