Stepping Out

Rachel was an “all in” kind of person.

If I didn’t know that before I learned it Saturday when I had the privilege of hearing her friends and family, many of whom had come from as far as Australia and England, speak about her friendship, her wit, her joy for life. Her unbreakable commitment and passion for anyone and anything she cared about.

Rachel Cheetham Moro

If Rachel liked something about you, she was your friend for life.  She didn’t do anything halfway, or half-assed like her dedication to exposing breast cancer’s ugly truth or the horrendous fact that little has changed since the inception of pink awareness…Where does that leave us? How do we make a difference now?  Can we accomplish anything if we’re not all in, like Rachel?

Feeling like a woman on a mission, I was fortunate to speak with Kathi Kolb, The Accidental Amazon and Sarah Horton, Being Sarah about my idealized, all-consuming quest to end breast cancer and both ladies wisely pointed out, it’s nearly impossible to always be all in.

Rachel was an amazing exception.  Activism is tough, draining work. It’s exhausting diligently keeping one’s nose to the grindstone only to hit wall after wall with little results. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth pursuing, but sometimes, for sanity’s sake, one needs to step back, look around, assess the situation, refresh and regroup.

I think it’s time I step out for a while.  To refresh, regroup and process the losses, not just those of last week, but all the losses over the years, the nearly 30 years since my mother was first diagnosed.  When breast cancer entered my vernacular and never left.

To learn what I can do, discover my role.  Thirty years is a long time for breast cancer to linger around the edges and often the forefront of my thoughts.

It’s time to contribute in ways that matter, in this fight to cure, prevent, eradicate this scourge that takes so much.  Maybe that means approaching this blog differently.  Being a better resource for those recently diagnosed.  I’m not a scientist.  The laboratory is not my place.  So I don’t know yet, but I do know breast cancer cannot continue to steamroll everyone in its path.

I want to be all in and I’m off to discover what that means for me.

To figure out where to go from here.

While stepping out to regroup, I leave you with this:

Somewhere in the sands of the Jersey shore or hiding in the food court of the Monmouth Mall is my little son’s tooth.  His first baby tooth to fall, lost forever while I was at Rachel’s memorial service.

Time stops for no one.

Like the gray Atlantic waves Saturday, life moves on.

What are we going to do with it?

A Tale of Two Gatherings

Last week, some dear friends from my former career life got together for a reunion in New York City.  It’s probably ten years or more since I’ve seen some of them.  We keep in touch sporadically.  Mostly through facebook, but some news can’t be announced with a status update or brief tweet.

Sharing a breast cancer diagnosis is one of those things.  So, that bit of information never made its way to those old friends of mine.  What would be the point?  I never see them.  We no longer share the stuff of everyday.  They’re not involved in the minutiae of my life.  Is there an etiquette rule requiring all old friends must be notified upon receipt of life-altering crappy news?

Turns out the timing wasn’t right and I couldn’t attend anyway, but if I had gone, I knew I wouldn’t tell them.  I would have pretended to be the young woman they think they know.

Breast cancer doesn’t belong there.  It doesn’t belong anywhere, but especially there.  In a dingy bar filled with past memories.  Surrounded, not by people currently in their forties, but by the idea of who we used to be in our twenties and thirties.

I’d leave that reunion soon enough to re-enter my current world, but at that gathering, cancer would wait outside the door.  Lingering in the shadows for a few hours.  Non-existent for the moment.  While I would be whom I once was. Back in the days when I was more carefree…before it found me.

In a city farther south, another group of friends gathered for the National Breast Cancer Coalition Advocacy Training Conference and this group couldn’t have been more different from the first.

Here were women I’ve never met, but spend time with everyday.  Whose words and work I admire.  Whose thoughts I connect with.  They gathered in Washington to fight for something I also believe is worth fighting for.

At this event cancer walked right in.  Discussions of breast cancer were not only welcome, but encouraged.  It took center stage and was the sole reason these women came together.  They were not only happy to talk about it, but giddy, enthusiastic, and inspired by it.

It is NBCC’s goal to end breast cancer by 2020 and all conversation centered on making that a reality.

At last, an exciting mission, empowering when embraced.  For too long it seems we were stuck in a sea of pink, hearing of changes, wanting to believe advancements were being made.  Needing to believe optimistic statistics when in actuality, approximately 40,000 people still die from this disease every year.

About as many as two decades ago.

That’s not advancement.  That’s not change.  That’s a number hidden so far down in a sea of pink we barely see it, but deep within ourselves, where the scary thoughts thrive, we know it’s the truth.  Pink awareness is not enough.

The people attending this event heard the conversation shift.  They refocused on facts, and with a concrete goal in sight discussed how research, combined with action and dedication could have the 2020 eradication deadline within our grasps.

Social media was at its finest as bloggers tweeted from their workshops.  I couldn’t absorb the information fast enough and want to thank Uneasy Pink, The Cancer Culture Chronicles, The Accidental Amazon, Pink Ribbon Blues and Women with Cancer bloggers, just to name a few, for taking time to spread the inspiration around.

If I had to choose a place to be that weekend, it would have been there in Washington, beside this group of incredibly motivated women.  Dragging cancer to the center of the room for all to see.  Believing, it was now possible to kick the unwanted guest back out…never to be seen again.