By Laura Wells, Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer Fighter
When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, I found it hard to embrace the “Pink Ribbon” and all it stood for. I was not happy to be joining the club, but I was also uncomfortable with becoming an instant advocate for a cause, simply because I would now benefit from it. It seemed selfish and hypocritical.
I began to truly identify with “Pink,” when I recurred at stage IV, for I would have breast cancer forever, be in treatment for life. I finally, fully embraced “pink.”
Ironically, with advanced, metastatic disease, all the great things “pink” stood for, no longer applied to me. I was beyond “prevention,” beyond “cure,” beyond “survivorship,” beyond “pink.”
I learned that many women feel left out, each October, during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, knowing our stories will not be told. No one will hear of the stage IV women who had died that year, except perhaps, the rare celebrity, or as a matter of statistics.
But, the average metastatic woman will be nowhere. There will be no article about her in the newspaper, no story on the news. There will be no TV special, introducing the world to a lifetime patient, who gets up every day, facing constant tests and treatment forever. We will not hear of the fear that an aching back means bone involvement, which causes a woman to start literally breaking, or the worry that a headache may be caused by brain involvement, and not merely stress. There will be no speakers, at the numerous awareness walks, to tell about conversations with their children, which begin with, “Will you still be here when…?”
The stories will be of “survivors”, women diagnosed “early”, and “cured”. We will hear about famous women who fought the earliest stage cancers and SURVIVED. And the speakers at the walks will promote awareness, and prevention, and survivorship.
I understand the need for this cheerfulness, and these stories of survivorship. I know how important, how necessary it is to be told that, especially in your case, there is hope for a cure.
But, I am beyond that definition of hope. My hope is for clean scans, and new treatments that work so well, I am still alive to attend my daughters’ weddings and meet my grandchildren. I hope to put off as long as possible, leaving behind a husband, who is grieving the loss of his wife.
My breast cancer is no longer just pink. It now, includes gray, the color of nothing – the nowhere land where I live, no longer a survivor, but a fighter, never giving in, never giving up. And, black, the color of death, for surely, one day, my fight will end.
And the problem with “pink” is simply that, with all the awareness it generates, no one is aware of stage IV cancer, the cancer that kills. And no one is prepared to join this club, which is beyond pink, because it will not be spoken of, for yet another year.
Laura Wells lives in Costa Mesa, CA, with her husband and two of her three daughters. She is writing a book about her experiences with metastatic disease and working to raise awareness of the unique needs of metastatic breast cancer patients. She blogs at www.Mystage4life.blogspot.com.