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October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Incase the universe thought it might have slipped my mind that 15 years ago I was diagnosed with this terrible disease, since then five of my girlfriends have been diagnosed with breast cancer as well. I understand their fears. I know how hard it is to think about anything other than cancer because we’re wondering if we’ll be here this time next year or five years from now. 

I also know when treatment is over, it’s sometimes difficult to get on with the business of living. 

While we’re grateful to have treatment behind us, it’s not uncommon for us to be scared when we’re released and ”on our own.” During treatment we had chemo and radiation and doctors who kept a close eye on the rise and fall of our cancer antigens and the state of our immune system. Even our bald head and lack of energy were tangible symbols our treatment was hard at work, killing our cancer, but what happens when treatment is over and our hair grows back? It’s easy to let our fears take over like they did at my first post treatment yoga class. 

In the middle of a Sun Salutation pose, I fell to the floor like I’d been flung from a Tilt-a-Whirl. 

The room was spinning; I couldn’t sit up, and I heard my oncologist’s words: “If it comes back, you’ll find it before I will.” I laid on the floor of yoga class, wondering if my cancer had already metastasized to my brain? I later learned I had positional vertigo, but it was one of many things that made me wonder if cancer would ever be behind me?

Sometimes friends and family may question why we’re not embracing our lives again? Why can’t we let cancer go and put it behind us? Since they’ve been looking forward to life returning to “normal,” often they don’t understand why we can’t move on as easily as they can. 

If you’ve ever watched The Dog Whisperer, Cesar Millan frequently rehabilitates dogs by jerking their chain. When he wants a dog to stop one kind of behavior and adopt another he jerks the chain around their neck, forcing them out of their negative behavior. Sometimes people are like that as well. If you and/or someone you know has been through something traumatic, like cancer, perhaps you need a bridge of some kind to help you find your “new normal.” A bridge could be the help of a therapist or a cancer support group or something you’ve never done before like taking an art class or even mentoring a child who needs a role model.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” Henry David Thoreau

Regarding Breast Cancer Awareness month… If you’re interested in donating to cancer research, please do not buy products with pink labels on them, thinking your money will go to cancer research because I’ve learned 95 percent of the time that does not happen. Instead what if you consider making a tax deductible donation to StandUp2Cancer? SU2C is at the top of my list of world class, dedicated, fiscally responsible organizations that have forever changed cancer research and how it is funded.  

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Hi Girlfriends,

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  1. Great post, Brenda, and great recommendation! People had a hard time with my not wanting to go to the Komen events, etc., but once Pink Ribbon Blues came out, I wasn’t interested in ineffective contributions. We need real research and answers. I was grateful for your website to help me get back into life after cancer, and have recommended it to many I coached through cancer. Thank you for the encouragement you’ve given to me and so many others!

    • Thank you, Beckye! I’m happy I’ve helped you in some way and brava for mentoring other women as they go through breast cancer. I didn’t have anyone I could turn to for advice which is why I started , science based information and encouragement from someone who’d been there. I’ve been blessed to have met strong smart women, like you, and to have learned how shady funding for breast cancer research has become. The “Pink Ribbon Blues” was a big revelation as was my disappointing relationship with Komen… who reached out to me to help them with their public image… The breast cancer community was betrayed by the highest profile breast cancer organization on the planet. I stayed neutral for several years until in good conscience, I could no longer remain silent. I’m grateful you and I are still here! Love, Brenda

  2. This is the best commentary I have read on breast cancer awareness month. Thanks for reminding us to be patient with those who are going through treatment and to think outside the box.

  3. My story is a different one but made me think of why I can’t forget cancer. I am a 25 year ovarian cancer survivor. Thank God. But because of 6 major abdominal surgeries I have had incisional hernias the whole time along with scar tissue and blocked bowel issues. I am and have been cancer free for most of these years, 6 months of chemo, but am daily reminded of the problems caused by the surgeries because of cancer.

    • Oh, Gayle! I’m sorry to hear this! You’ve reminded us of another side of the cancer story. The treatment is often deadly and at best, brutal and life-changing. What an ordeal you’ve been through! You’re blessed and lucky to have even survived ovarian cancer since by the time it’s diagnosed, it’s often too late to treat it effectively. Thank you, sweet lady, for sharing your story and significantly adding to this discussion. Love, Brenda

  4. The Belgian singer Stromae did an interesting video about cancer, in honor of his mother.
    It is becoming easier to count the people I know who haven’t had cancer rather than those who have.
    For those young enough, a donation of hair is a lovely thing. They don’t like to get grays, which are difficult to dye….
    Wishing you many cancer-free years.

    • TOF, WOW! I hadn’t seen or heard about this video. So powerful and frightening. The ultimate horror movie because it’s true. Thank you. You’re right about knowing more people who’ve had cancer than those who haven’t. There are other ways we can help, like donating hair, but money that actually gets to cancer researchers and by enabling researchers around the world who are working on the same exact areas to collaborate with one another instead of competing for the same dollars is what’s needed and that is Thank you, again! xoxox, Brenda

  5. Beautiful article, Brenda. Thank you for the suggestion on where to make a donation that will actually help the women who need it! I love your pink tractor photo… fitting image for our strength as women, and our ability to keep moving forward – doing what needs doing.

  6. Well said Brenda! Unless you have been down the road it is hard to understand the trepidations of being alone in your advocacy of your own health after breast cancer.

    • Haralee, Like Beckye and me, you also know what it’s like to be diagnosed with breast cancer and make your way to the other side through a deadly maze littered with landmines. You and your company, , are one of the few “good guys” out there who are helping women and really supporting cancer research. Brava!! Brava!! xoxox, Brenda

  7. Wow. So powerful, Brenda. Was wondering if you’ve ever heard of Anita Moorjani? She went through cancer and almost died, but went through a near-death experience that changed her perspective on everything, including cancer. She’s worth googling if you haven’t heard about her — very uplifting and thought-provoking.

    • Laurie, Thanks for telling me about Anita. I visited her website and read a number of things she’s written. I agree with her about healing our soul and how it is at the root of disease. Her thoughts on these things are very familiar to me and I believe them as well. xoxox, Brenda

  8. This is such a needed, touching post Brenda. My heart breaks for my friends and family who live with the fear of the other shoe dropping, the return or metastasizing of their cancer.

    • Thank you Doreen. While my breast cancer may return some day, after James died I realized I’d been worrying about all the wrong things and let go of my fear. I’ll deal with things if and when I need to. xoxox, Brenda

  9. How lucky to stumble onto your writing here! Struggling to return to my happy-go-lucky self after a mastectomy…and not only for meself. You are my kind of gal, Brenda. So enjoyed your intelligent and sensitive article. Mucho merci.

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