When people find out that I have the BRCA gene, that I have had a bilateral mastectomy, and that I am destined to have my ovaries removed, I usually get the “Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry!” response.
But, I am not sorry.
I am thankful.
The National Cancer Institute estimates there were more than 207,000 new cases of breast cancer among American women in 2010, and 39,840 deaths.
Many of these women did not have the ability to anticipate cancer; did not have the ability to prevent cancer.
I removed my breasts before they were removed from me. I removed them before they took my cells, my lymph nodes, my hair, my bone density, my fertility, and my health. I made choices before it took me from my family.
In just the two months since the school year has started, three of my students have watched their loved ones return to God. And, as I correct their final essays for class, I am learning of four more who have already lost a parents, loved one, and even a young friend to cancer. It’s hard not to think about the young students who have lived in the buildings around my office who have been diagnosed, survived, or died from cancer.
As I write this, one friend is just hoping her husband lives through the next few days. One friend is hoping he lives through the next few weeks. Two friends just had their mastectomies, helping them live through the next few years. One friend is preparing for her mastectomy next week. Many more friends are in active chemotherapy and radiation.
This morning, a college friend of mine called to ask if I would connect with her friend — a mom who just found out her 2-year old has cancer.
When people find out that I was thrown into this cancer world when my daughter was diagnosed with cancer, they feel sadness for us.
I do not.
I feel sadness for the parents who, on this Thanksgiving holiday, can’t help but wonder what their own children would have been like had they survived cancer. They think about their children in terms of “My son would have been four” or “My daughter would have celebrated her 8th birthday today.” I feel sadness for the young people who are celebrating their first holiday without a parent.
And, in this same weekend, I heard from a friend who just delivered her third child. Happy, healthy, perfect. Welcoming life into this world after a tough pregnancy, and bringing joy and blessings into their family.
I am thankful.
My daughter — though physically changed — is here today to emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually keep growing. I do not have to wonder who she would have been, but rather who she will become. And, in turn, she won’t have to wonder what it would be like to have a mom with breast cancer.
I am thankful.
I am thankful for cancer. I am thankful for the knowledge it has given us, for the opportunities it has provided us, and for the future it has still promised us. Cancer can make us both weak and strong.
It binds us to those who love, who care deeply, and who live as if every day is a Day of Thanks.
Peace, love, and healing prayers for those in great need these days,