This story is shared with us by Amy Ackley.
I was reading through a Facebook group thread, and saw where a lady was posting about her scary liver progression. There it was: “Fight like a girl – win like a woman.” Pray hard. Fight harder. Fight. Win. Battle. Beatable. Copable. Survivable. I wanted to correct this well-intentioned commenter; to take the moment to educate her on the actual dire circumstances indicated by metastases (especially of a critical organ), but had to remind myself that she is also a cancer patient trying to give support. We as a patient population – as a society in general – need things to be fixable. Curable. Fightable.
The facts are ugly, and they are transcendent of any October. My mind fields the Pink Month in a sort of punctuated staccato: Dogs with pink balloon boobies (three in eight early stagers will metastasize). Race for the Cure (7% of pink marketing funds metastatic research). Survivor walks (33 month median survival once metastatic). Boar’s Head selling hummus in pink containers (they have a max cap donation of $25k no matter how much hummus we buy). Go Braless Day (on metastatic breast cancer day, no less – and how many women lost their boobs to cancer, and how many others didn’t because they were diagnosed terminal at the start?).
Social media has presented us with many avenues of advocacy and awareness. Amongst the cancer patients themselves is a run to post topless photos to show scars. Everyone has their own journey, and the path through lumpectomy and double mastectomy is not an easy one. Me still having my original toxic breasts is an ironic source of sadness for me; I was too far advanced for their removal to matter, and now we are seeing that even if they had been removed, who knows if I would have metastasized anyway. I am so grateful for the unique support I have been able to find in the live Forge group – each one of us is different, and with different diagnoses and scars, but all of us are dealing with cancer every month of the year, and none of us are too keen to don our pink sorority clothes for the sake of awareness marketing.
It’s November, and the Beatles song “In My Life” creeps into my radio. I catalog it as one to add to the funeral song list, along with “If I Die Young” by The Band Perry and “Outfit” by The Drive By Truckers. I have a working list, although my current cancer anthem is “Not Ready to Make Nice” by The Dixie Chicks. I wonder if my daughter will know how much I love music – and a variety of music, genres, instruments, solo artists. It’s not a pink month anymore; this month is dedicated to lung and pancreatic cancers and a host of other worthy causes. There are metastatic elephants in these rooms too, and all of us would benefit from targeted research towards a cure – researchers who are trying to stop cancer from spreading; who are identifying new receptors and thus new treatments; and so on. Every single one of us would like to be fixable.