The Ties that Bind Us

It didn’t matter where I was.  A room full of women at a support group.  Sitting next to a “young-ish” woman in my oncologist’s office.  Alone in front of my laptop.

We’d find each other.

They were there, these women like me who heard they had it — that word.  That word I hate giving breath to, life to.  I won’t.

Years ago I was afraid to say it, but for different reasons.  When my mom was diagnosed in 1983 I’m sure I never told a soul.

Who could say those words?  No one spoke of it then.  She carried it alone.  How hard that must have been.

Even after she died, I wouldn’t say it just so I could pretend it wasn’t still out there somewhere searching for others.  Or me.

When it found me in 2009 I thought I had to bear it alone as my mother did.  That’s what I knew and that’s what I did.  Lugging it with me wherever I went, whatever I did until I couldn’t hold it anymore.  I finally spoke its name hoping to ease its grip.

In a support group I had somehow gathered the nerve to attend I met women openly describing their experiences, dealing with it, even laughing about it.  Death hadn’t come to this door cloaked in cancer.  At least not yet.  Not on that day.  We all knew too well that it could and when it showed up, it wouldn’t differentiate between us.

It wasn’t easy at first, to say the words out loud.  Voice what had happened to me, to my mom all those years ago, but these women listened.  They got it and I inhaled their support like a drug.  I wanted more.  On various levels each and every one in that room related to my story and it was intoxicating to be around women who knew what I was talking about.

Months later I started this blog.  Something I never thought this shy girl would do, but I had to let out my experience, find others like me.  I knew they had to be somewhere and I craved their words.  I sought connection by saying, “I know how you feel” or found vindication through their comments expressing the same.

What I unknowingly stumbled upon changed how I saw cancer forever.  We were wrong, my mother and me. We were far from the only ones and no one had to take cancer on alone, but perhaps it’s the initial self-imposed isolation that drives so many women to seek answers on the Internet, to search a vast void for some personal understanding that’s sometimes so hard to find in people closest to us.

We just had to learn where to go.  Staggering numbers of women with breast cancer — All ages, all stages, all types, all treatments, all different, but all tethered together by those words.

It’s more than 2 years since I started Bringing Up Goliath and though I’ve never stopped reading other bloggers, I faltered writing my own posts.  For a long time I wrote about life with cancer front and center and as it began to take a back seat, I questioned every post, every topic.  Were my words less important now that my day to day no longer revolved around active cancer crap?  Now that reconstruction was finished?  What did I have to say?  So many have it so much worse.  The blogosphere should be theirs.

I stopped writing, not because I wanted to, but because I was unsure how to proceed.

Yesterday, seeing Fearless Friends rush to support a blogger who had received the worst news and then later joining the amazing #BCSM tweetchat in memory of friends lost to Metastatic Breast Cancer, I remembered why I was here in the first place.  I remembered how I wished my mom had known this community.

Maybe posts don’t have to be about cancer all the time, maybe it’s enough saying I’m here. This is what I’m dealing with, how about you?  Maybe something I said will spark recognition in someone and they’ll get what I’m saying despite the differences in our disease.  Maybe they can lighten their own load.

We’re the same.  We’ve been forever linked by those words.  Not a whole lot of people can say that, (lucky for them) so it’s a good thing we’ve found each other and I guess I don’t ever want to give that up.