My blood draw went fine and results were almost immediate (Like I said, I was the first patient.). I sat in the waiting room with other patients as I waited to be called for my actual treatments.
The television set was on with non-stop reports from Belgium. I was interested in the reports as my husband is currently in Europe. However, I'm not one who has to have television reports as I'd rather read the news than see/listen to it.
I was caught a bit off guard, though, when I heard the following conversation between a husband and wife:
"You know, these terrorism reports make me sick. We are going to hear about this for days and days on end. Everyone will be talking about this and talking about nothing else."
"I know, I know."
"It's as if people only care when a few people die in a dramatic fashion. I mean, look around us ... we're in an (expletive) cancer waiting room and thousands and thousands of us are dying every year and no one cares."
I glanced at the couple. The husband was the one who was most upset. He went on to repeat:
"We've become numb. It's as if everyone expects to get cancer at some point in their lives and there's no use in trying to stop the tide. I wonder if we'll reach the same point when it comes to these type of terrorist attacks. That it happens more and more often and we weep for a day and then we keep on living life as before. It’s as if our deaths don’t mean anything."
Neither this man or his wife had breast cancer. He had lung cancer and he was quite angry about it. I was then called back into the infusion room and didn’t get to talk to him directly.
I ended up being in the infusion room for nine more hours. While there, one of my beloved friends came in to say goodbye to the infusion room staff. She's not moving away and she's not changing treatment centers. She's dying and she met with her oncologist (We have the same oncologist.) where she made the difficult decision to stop treatments as there's nothing left for her. She has been living with metastatic breast cancer for three years, all the while with gastro-intestinal metastases which have further spread throughout her body. She is absolutely exhausted. She is unable to walk and she is unable to eat. She is too thin and she can barely talk due to the tumors in her esophagus. It was very obvious that she has disengaged from life and that she's ready to let go.
She will die and we will grieve. Our hearts will break because we love her and we don’t want to let her go.
But life will go on. It should go on ... it shouldn't stop for everyone simply because it stops for her ... but you know what?
Just as the man in the waiting room said, “We’ve become numb.” Helen’s death, while noticed and marked by those of us in her world, will go down in the record books as a member of the metastatic de novo club and a member of the 40,000+ who die each year in the United States.
I don’t have the time nor the energy to do everything I want to do in the world of advocacy. Like my friend, Helen, I’m disengaging from events in life as I prioritize how to spend my time. There are things I have to leave for others in the future. This doesn’t mean that I don’t care passionately about these things, but that I leave them in the good hands of others.
There are many different approaches in dealing with the very real problem of early stage breast cancer and metastatic breast cancer. (Yes, they are two different beasts.) Even as someone with metastatic disease, I struggle with who is doing what and how they are doing what they are doing. I feel like I’m on a school yard waiting to be asked to join a team, yet not being sure which team I want to be a part of. My solution to the school yard scenario was to walk away and not join any team. (I’ve long described myself as a non-joiner, much of which resulted from my elementary school years.) In many ways, I feel like that’s what I’m doing now as well. Not joining.
I still cling to the mantra, “one woman, one voice, one day at a time.” Can my one voice make a difference in the big picture?
Maybe, maybe not. If nothing else, I’ll make a difference in my little corner of my world. I don’t want to become numb to the pain around me.
I’m not numb. Being numb means to feel no pain. I’m in pain every single day. Not physical pain, but emotional and mental pain. I’m tired of losing my friends and I’m tired of misinformation.
I don’t want you to become numb either. I need you to be vocal in every situation possible to not only bring awareness, but to truly educate. Please be watching my website, iwantmorethanapinkribbon.com for resources you can use. In the meantime, you can always ask questions here.