The Zero in Closing Breast Cancer Awareness Month

In an ideal world, there would be no more cancer. No more need to encourage little caregivers as helpful participants in a journey that is often too painful to put into words. No more need for The Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation (and the likes) to grant libraries money for books to help children understand their mom’s cancer journey.  The pages could all go blank. I could thank God for a finished work too many have craved for too long.  No more need for a Little Pink Book. The entire wishful-thinking scenario has been on my mind for years.

This October I was quieter than usual.  No retreats, camps, awareness events, hopeful workshops, and remembrance walks. No push for articles and interviews.  I haven’t lost my sense of awareness.  I haven’t lost my heart for the cause, nor my passion to fight the fight alongside those diagnosed with breast cancer, or any cancer.   Instead, I simply and quietly went into the trenches.

We can’t erase cancer but we can magnify hope by easing the pain and worry that comes with it.  This “pink month” I chose to be among the little caregivers. When your friend’s children are ten, fourteen and nineteen years old and cancer comes knocking, it’s time to do more, show them how they can be helpful instead of feeling helpless.  Take out unexpected complexities and bring in unexpected blessings – that was my goal. Right there in the trenches, inside that door where cancer knocked. I wanted to flood their hearts with tangible hope.

What had began as a little story for a big problem had rippled out in ways I never anticipated.  A recent discussion forum reads, “I am a 3-year breast cancer survivor and have a book (to help cope with mom’s breast cancer) that I no longer need and would love to give to someone for free.  It’s in brand new condition.  I read it to my 9-year-old son back then and it helped explain things simply for him (and for me!).”  I am honored my little book was helpful enough to pass on … feels like a legacy of sorts. Yet, I am painfully aware more must be done. Writing will never be enough.

We must go into the trenches, to meet them where the war is being waged. We must cautiously proceed, honestly yet gently, because ripple effects can take on a life of their own. Tucked inside children’s minds, firmly parked until another loss in life (and another will come) causes it to flow up and out.  It’s not uncommon for children to wonder, “Did I cause my mom’s cancer?” The only way to dispel such misconceptions is by talking – cancer doesn’t get worse by talking about it, and it doesn’t get better by hiding it. Let’s not tuck it away.  Take a look at cancer through a child’s eyes (here). Then, please go about helping, doing, and loving when you’re needed most.

Let’s face it, cancer hurts. It hurts physically, emotionally, financially, and spiritually. It hurts the people with cancer and all those who love them. The hardest part for others when a loved one is diagnosed is figuring out what should or shouldn’t be said and done. I struggled some; I had never face-to-face helped a friend (and husband and children) go through chemotherapy. Defeating thoughts came when I stepped through the door … what if I get it wrong? I couldn’t let myself dwell there.  My friend needed me to get down in the trenches.  There, we talked, we stumbled, we laughed, we teared-up, we prayed, we embraced hope.  Faith really can move mountains.

Breast cancer awareness month is coming to a close.  My heart is full of appreciation for all the individuals, foundations, researchers and medical teams who work tirelessly to alleviate the ripple effects of cancer.  Yet, sadly, its closure is of zero significance in one monumental way … the fight doesn’t end with the turning of a calendar page. The cancer book is not closed. The pages did not go blank. The disease is not cured. I am painfully and prayerfully aware that others will be newly diagnosed today. Surely, I will get down in the trenches again to show another loved one there is light, even in the darkest moments.  I promise not to lose heart. How about you?

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