It is the word that we hear all the time, so closely connected to breast cancer that it is almost a mantra. Early detection saves lives; roll up, roll up, get your mammogram here; be Aware of The Symptoms.
But Awareness only seems to go along with the symptoms and catching it early. Where is the Awareness when it is no longer and Early Stage form that can have a happy outcome? How about some Awareness that even when cancer has become Late Stage that there is still a possibility of life and happiness even if you are considered to have incurable cancer.
My father died of emphysema less than three weeks after my 18th birthday. I grew up witnessing and living alongside a disease that could not be cured and which was killing my father, so I guess I have always thought that there could be come sort of a life after a diagnosis of death. What I find so difficult is the way that those of use living in the Valley Of The Shadow Of Death are not seen as being in a valley that can have sun as well as shadow; that can have beautiful and life affirming days even when we are traveling through it. The path from one end of the valley to the other is not straight and although the terrain can be difficult there can be those days when you just have to smile at being alive and able to enjoy living. I was driving out from Oxford to Witney earlier this week and I was just thinking what a perfect day it was and how amazing it was just to be there. It was the kind of day where I could just have kept heading west into the Cotswolds and wandered around the villages that my ancestors inhabited. But that world is also in my mind and my soul. I may not be able to walk through the countryside as once I could, but my mind can still walk through those fields and along those roads just as many of my family did before me.
There is nothing new under the sun ... perhaps, but there are new things for me to do, or places to go because today is a new day that I have not lived before.
Awareness of breast cancer has to be about understanding an excepting the whole journey. It is about being aware that things can go to plan and the patient can be a survivor, but in some cases it just doesn't work out the way that we would all like it to be. Awareness is about not only supporting the 'winners' but also the 'losers' and making sure that they get the support that they need. Why is it that all the support goes to those who, hopefully, will be ok? Why do we have to sit and listen to people going on about how stressful it is knowing that your cancer might come back, that there might be a recurrence or progression. Of course once you are in the Valley Of The Shadow you don't need help, understanding or support because ... well you're dead already - WRONG. Those of us who are Valley-dwellers don't want anyone else to be part of Our Club. We want to be exclusive, we want to be the last of the last but others keep turning up and joining in. I have lived with Metastatic Breast Cancer for 66 months. I didn't die the day I was diagnosed. I didn't cease to exist, to have feelings or to need support and understanding and yet I, and so many others who live with MBC feel as though we are invisible and unwanted, having become some sort of Zombie - the walking dead. I am alive, I can kick and I do exists - so get over it!