Category: Breast Cancer

Unwanted Anniversary – Conclusion

Friday is a good "conclusion" day, so here is the poem that concluded the chapter titled "Rivers of Entrophy," from This Path We Share. Hope it speaks to you in some way, in whatever space you occupy today.

Rebirth

Enter the Valley of Doubt and Despair
certainly vanished
strength fled
Love no longer there

Spend the duration regardless how long
searching soul
resting body
heart without song

Know, with sureness and trust, once again
you will return to  Life
vigor renewed
a fervent amen

Although you may return to the Valley
now and then

(Excepted from This Path We Share © 2010 Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad)

 

Have a great weekend!

 

 

Hierarchy

Last week I read an excellent post from Marie Ennis O'Connor on "Is There a Hierarchy Among Cancer Survivors?"

Then this week that discussion was followed by another excellent post and discusssion at Regrounding. Even though the topic has been quite thoroughly and thoughtfully covered in these previous posts, I'd like to add a bit.  

So, is there a herarchy among cancer survivors? Is there one in breast cancer circles?

Having spoken hundreds of times to quite diverse cancer support groups, as well as to oncologists, nurses, and others in the cancer community, I have experienced many layers of:

  • You didn't have chemo, so what gives you the right?
  • Your lymph nodes were not positive, so you're home free.
  • You're lucky it was only breast cancer.
  • You aren't Stage IV. Everything else is a piece of cake.
  • You didn't suffer as much with your treatment; you didn't have chemo before Zofran: you didn't burn and peel with your radiation.  
  • You can't call yourself a victim; that shows you are weak.
  • You can't use battle words; or, you must use battle language.
  • Your chronic fatigue syndrome didn't totally put you in bed for years. (Forgive my straying into another disease. But I've heard this a lot.)
  • You must identify as "survivor," "thrivor." "victor," "totally made it." (Forget about the part that breast cancer can recur years later.)
  • We must be brave, courageous – keep our friends, family, casual passers-by reassured.

 

I've also lived quite a long time. Guess that puts me pushing toward the top of the hierarchy of "I'm older than you and I know better." But maybe I won't play that card, even though with all of this well-earned gray hair and many wrinkles, it is terribly tempting. :) 

Let me repeat some of what I commented on Marie's blog (with amplification):

There is always hierarchy. Everywhere. In every circle – family, sports, health, illness, religion, politics, young, old, male, female.

I don’t know if it is more prevalent among women than men; it may seem so in junior high, but it probably just exists in different arenas.

There is something within us that seems to compel us to play one-upmanship. In disease circles, maybe it is self-preservation. If I can figure out what stupid thing you did to make yourself sick or caused yourself to die, I can avoid that and save myself indefinitely.

I try to guard myself against participating in hierarchical maneuvers, but certainly don’t always succeed. I have deservedly been put in my place a number of times.

When I am the recipient, my hope is always that I can find the grace to give the other person the benefit of the doubt – realizing that there is no way I can walk in her shoes or divine her motives or identify her. I simply do not know why he or she has chosen that path or why he or she needs to de-elevate me. 

On the other hand, no one can put me down if I won’t go down.

Unsolicited Cancer Advice – Declutter Your Mind

Sometimes I think that unsolicited advice comes with the territory of our cancer diagnoses, be they last week or twenty years ago. I have to admit that, even knowing how unwelcome it is, there have been many times I have been tempted to dispense same. And, horrors of horrors, gulity more than once. 

That advice can be medical, pseudo-medical, psychological, career, parenting, marriage, faith-based, dating, you name it.

This morning I interrupted my decluttering of several stacks of paper to check some blogs I follow. (Admit it; the Internet does provide great procrastination material.) Anyway, I found a very interesting post. Well-written story. Also humorous. Check it out at PinkUnderbelly.

And the next time you are on the receiving end of unsolicited advice, whatever its brand, do what that sassy gal from Texas did:

  1. Be polite
  2. Run the other way as fast as you can
  3. Declutter your mind immediately (Hey, I'm trying to stay with my theme.)

 

 

 

 

No Lifeguard on Duty

I started the second morning of January with a talk for the Littleton United Methodist Church Optimist Club. It was my 595th speech.

As we left home at 8:30, I said to Les, "There won't be anyone there. It's too cold. The year is too new."

And he said, "Who is there is who is there."

When we entered the room, almost two dozen faces smiled at us and we were immediately pulled into the warmth of this lively group. 

As I began reading "No Lifeguard on Duty," one woman interrupted, "Oh, I know who you are. I have that poem on my desk! And to think I almost didn't come this morning!"   

Later she told me about the many sadnesses she has had in her life. Somewhere she had heard of that particular poem, but could only remember one line. A friend of hers Googled it and found the poem. My new friend printed it out and kept it on her desk. I felt humbled and honored when she told me that it had given her comfort and courage when she needed it. 

So, just in case you need a helping hand this morning, here it is once more:

No Lifeguard on Duty

It is difficult
when one is drowning
to wave to the people
on shore

One wants to be
friendly, of course,

but perhaps it is
more important
to keep

swimming

(Excerpted from Fine Black Lines, © 1993, 2003, Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad) 

Happy New Year!

 

 

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How Did I Miss November?

My last post was October 31, "A Final Poem for October."

Okay. Appropriate enough from someone who is a breast cancer survivor, who wrote the book in which that poem first appeared, who wants to comfort others. With any luck, perhaps the poem did comfort someone. 

But this is December 20. What happened to November? What happened to the first three weeks of December?

Well, in November a couple of trips happened. First to Arizona to visit one son and his family, then a Thanksgiving trip to Traverse City, Michigan, with another son and his family. In Arizona I got too warm and relaxed to try to blog and in Michigan I got too full.

Sorry. More tomorrow.