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Archive for September, 2014

This weekend I spent 24 hours with 21 amazing women, 3 that work in the medical field and 18 that have faced the monster called breast cancer and knocked it on its butt. This was the first breast cancer survivor retreat I’ve ever attended, and like me, most of the women who were at the retreat had been reluctant to come. As a whole we are all pretty private women who do what we have to do and move on, but we all had to admit that when we were told we had cancer, for a moment or six, our worlds stopped.

There were a lot of similarities in this small slice of the Sisterhood of Pink, but there were a lot of differences too. We all had tremendous emotions around the disease itself and our journeys in particular, most of which many of us had never talked about. I’ve been reluctant to call myself a survivor or to even talk about my breast cancer because mine was caught early and I didn’t have to go through chemo, the trauma of losing my hair, or a mastectomy. I was surprised that there were other women in the group who felt similar, but it was lovingly brought to our attention that we did go through the same emotions, through surgeries, through enhanced diligence about mammograms, and we live with the niggling fear that is now always with us that the big C struck once, will it strike again.

Many differences emerged over the weekend as well. Some women there had tremendous support groups including husbands who were with them every step of the way, and through the journey, relationships were strengthened. For others, the disease and all that goes with it had taken a toll on their marriages, family relationships, and even friendships. And others were single women without large families, and these women were pretty much doing this journey alone.

But, through it all, whether they had strong support groups, were trying to find the strength within themselves, or were struggling, one thing emerged so clearly ― each and every one of these women had a core strength that could bowl you over with its intensity. There is a saying that life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% about what you do with it. And that 90% was very evident in this group of women. These strong souls use humor, compassion, intelligence, and pure determination to climb above the results and indignities that come with fighting a powerful, aggressive enemy and then dealing with the fact that they are no longer the same, and discovering who they are now.

This Sisterhood of Pink is not one that any of us would willingly join. Most of us would rather be on the sidelines ― encouraging those who are in the battle and helping as we can, whether it’s wearing pink, running races, or volunteering for fundraisers ― but entering this sisterhood is not a choice we get to make, it is made for us when the disease takes residence in our breasts.

As a part of this sisterhood, I am so grateful to all who are dedicated to stopping the disease and to helping along the way. As a whole, the people who work in the field of breast cancer are caring, nurturing souls. Three of the women doctors in Roanoke, Virginia who are specialists in breast cancer, took a big chunk out of their Saturday to travel to Camp Bethel and talk to our small gathering of women. They answered our questions, hugged us, laughed with us, assured us, and let us know that while some of the medical community can feel a bit distanced and uncaring, we were surrounded by love and support.

I began thinking about the women who came before us ― like Susan Koman who died of breast cancer and whose sister began the Susan Koman foundation. This foundation has done more for breast cancer awareness than any other entity. And, until a cure is found, there will be women who come after us ― like my niece who was recently diagnosed and my daughter who has fought it and triumphed. Because of women who came before, we have the Sisterhood of Pink and for the women who come after, we are here for you.

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