Yes, we’re at the end of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but it’s important to remember that women (and men) fight breast cancer all year long, year after year, Nov. 1 through Sept. 30. We asked some real women from the Cure Diva breast cancer community to write a letter to their breast cancer and the result was a powerful reminder that women live with emotional scars long after they’re declared cancer free.
Uzma Yunus writes…
Believe me, you aren’t dear to me but I am just sticking to literary convention. You have enjoyed the stay in my body, my temple, for much too long and have overstayed your welcome. I would like you to pack your stuff and leave. My body has better things to do than to fight with your megalomania. There is an exit sign that you are ignoring.
I need my energy too so that I can live to see my children grow. My son needs you to leave so he can grow up to be a man but still have a place where his tears are not seen as weakness and his laughter infuses life. My daughter needs you to leave so she is assured that she can be taught all the “girly” things that she needs to learn in life and be all that she needs to be.
I need you to leave so I can grow old with my loving husband. He needs you to leave so he can have his life back. He needs you to go so he doesn’t have to be the mother and father. He needs you to leave so he can lose the anxiety of losing the love of his life.
I think you have been trying to suck the energy out of my existence for far too long — bit by bit, and piece by piece. You don’t scare me and I can look at your sick, crazily mitotic nuclei in the eye and say, “I am not afraid: I just need you to leave.”
I want you to leave so my friends can rejoice and my family can breathe freely. I need you to leave so that my patients can rest assured that the one person they feel that truly understands them is still there and they won’t have to start over. They need to heal. I need to heal.
I want you to leave so I can look at those who abandoned me during cancer and say, “Thank you for helping me realize that you never mattered. I won this battle without you!”
I need you to leave, for I have learned all the lessons that I needed to learn after looking at death in the eye. I have learned not to take anything, or anyone for granted. I have learned to take each moment as it comes. To find meaning and hope in everyday life. To make things happen and not wait. To be myself and trust myself. To be honest and forthright. To endure.
I have learned the meaning of pain and suffering, that a peaceful night’s sleep is a blessing, being able to digest food is a treat, to be pain-free is a miracle, to feel energetic is a gift, to feel beautiful is an internal feeling and to appreciate life is hard work.
I am ready to move on from the lessons I have learned so I would like you to move on. Leave me alone. It’s time to move on. It’s time to heal. It’s time to recover. It’s time to start over.
Yours (not really!!),
A cancer survivor
Ann-Marie Otis writes…
Dear Stupid, Dumb Breast Cancer,
It’s crazy that I call you stupid and dumb when sometimes I think you are really very smart. You came into my life two years ago and everything changed. My entire world crashed. You thought you could go unnoticed with that lump in my right breast, but I found you that bright sunny morning. Yes, you rocked my world and believe me, you have changed me in more ways than I thought possible.
The physicality of what you do is hideous and inexcusable. My entire body has changed inside and out, and I was not at all prepared for what you were going to do to me. Lucky for me, I took every cut you came at me with and came right back up – although each boost of strength just made me hate you more.
You are rotten for coming into my life in the first place and hurting me, my family and friends but the sadness you left me with is your way of trying to win – even when I prevailed. You try as you may to kill us with your black nastiness and when that doesn’t work, you leave us with darkness that we cannot explain, an emptiness that only others who have met you get. The emotional scars are not at all what I thought you would try, but you are a sneaky, vile beast, aren’t you? Good try, but you are an amateur.
Here is what you did not count on. This incredible alliance of breast cancer men and women that together are pushing each other through our darkest moments — we call it “cancer connection.” Together we help each other with ways to beat you, tricks to get through surgery, tips to push through chemo, ways to heal through radiation. But best of all how to heal our minds after you have gone! Yes, you try to sadden us more by taking our friends but that just empowers us to fight back even harder in their memory.
Yes, I am just one person. What can I possibly do to you? But there are 2.5 million with breast cancer and 30 percent with metastatic breast cancer, guess you didn’t count on us banning together did you? Well, we did and this is one amazing, smart, brave posse who will make it our mission to take you down. Maybe not today or tomorrow but you cannot stop us forever. I know you will not give up but neither will we. I guess you really are stupid and dumb.
Sincerely, your biggest enemy,
Ann Marie, the pink princess in heels
Efrat Roman writes…
If I had met my old, terrified me at the medical center’s exit on the day the envelope that changed my life was delivered to me, I’d take me by the hand and lead me somewhere where I could catch my breath. The thing about you, Cancer, is that you come quietly, quickly, but change lives forever. You made me tell myself, alone, that very day in the middle of the street, “I am very sorry, but yes, it is cancer we are about to be coping with, from now on.”
“It is going to be the hardest time in your life,” I’d tell me. Although you’re a scary, wounding and physically exhausting being, I’d tell myself that this road, this journey, will make me smarter and stronger and braver.
Cancer, you certainly rocked my entire world and put me in immense, terrible pain. I hate you! You turned my world into a life filled with compression bras, surgeries, mastectomies, doctors’ visits, drain belt, hair loss. You affected my children, my family, with your wicked ways.
But as much as I hate you, I am also grateful for the empowerment you’ve also caused. You have demonstrated that there is nothing I cannot achieve — for if I can overcome you, I can overcome anything. Exactly the frustration with you, cancer, exactly what caused me to find myself again. The old, terrified me has transformed into something wonderful — although appearing weak, alien-bald and without breasts on the outside, inside I am all strength.
I’ve learned that even in my darkest days battling you, Cancer, I was never alone.
Efrat Roman — CureDiva co-founder