29. Let's be clear: Heroes run into burning buildings, and I am not a hero.
“Everyone keeps telling me what a hero you are in handling all of this. And I’m like “No, she’s not.” I mean you are brave and everything, but heroes run into burning buildings. You are technically running out of one.”
-Collin to Me
He’s completely right. Metaphorically, I am leaving a burning building, and there’s not much heroism involved.
That’s what you do when your life is at risk, you handle it. My wise -beyond-her-years friend Stephanie Kurtzuba once said “People’s reactions are all relative to their experience.” (We had been drinking on a NYC rooftop during a college party when she said it, which may or may not have cemented it in my memory.)
But I’ve thought about that sentiment often, even more so with the onset of this diagnoses. People are eager to use moniker’s like “hero” and brave,” I think because just the word cancer is such a "trigger.”
Their reaction is based on their experience of knowing someone with cancer. So you say what you can. You say nice things. You hope it helps.
And being a “cancer knower,” as opposed to the “cancer haver,” can be even tougher in some respects.
I, as “cancer haver,” lets call it a CH, have concrete things I can do. I take my meds, go to my treatment, yell at my husband, etc... And while people bearing witness, the CKs, can help with meals, travel, bottles of wine etc… there is nothing they can do to derail this train.
I have to take this ride.
It’s a crappy place to be. I know, because I’ve been there. I became a semi-expert in a rare blood cancer when my Mom got sick. And as expert as I was, having that knowledge still didn’t allow me to “steer the train.”
Because at the end of the day, there is only one person who can take control of the treatment, and that is the CH.
Which is not to discount your “safety net.” It’s a hell of a lot easier to face a diagnoses when you know that whatever happens, the result won’t be bankrupting debt. When your team of doctors is great, your insurance covers your treatment, you have a posse of supportive friends and you don’t fear losing your job, “bravery” comes easily.
That is a privilege I have been acutely aware of since all of this began, and why two weeks out of surgery when Jessica Sherman had an IG post asking for volunteers for “A Cause For Entertainment” a non-profit that “support and empower individuals and communities affected by breast cancer,” I told Collin “We’re signing up.”
And that’s where I met some real heroes : Dr Susan Love , who has made it her life’s mission to eradicate breast cancer and with her “Army of Women” and has empowered other researchers to help her. Shay Sharpe who has beat breast cancer TWICE , and with her Pink Wishes Foundation educates, advocates, mentors, supports, shares resources and grants wishes to children & young women who have been affected by terminal breast cancer.
I am in awe of them.
And while I hope this little blog may help someone, somewhere, they have already made a giant difference.
They are the one’s who have decided to spent their time helping.
They have decided to run back into the burning building. Would we all be so brave.