Awareness Is Personal

Clutter in the attic.

Wisely, I took two weeks off work during the beginning of Pinktober. This allowed me to post, comment, and hopefully help push the dialogue about genuine breast cancer awareness during the much-dreaded month of pointless pinksploitation. Highlights included promoting the efforts of Met Up, featuring the Die-In that took place in Washington, D.C., and the legislative agenda promoted by its organizers.

Then, about halfway through Pinktober, the American Cancer Society released its new screening mammogram guidelines. Basically, the ACS was perhaps hoping to deliver clarity and options, but instead delivered confusion. A few valiant journalist friends attempted to sort it out, including Diane Mapes and Elaine Schattner. By the end of the month, I was so sick of the whole subject, I added my own parody post about it.

Shortly thereafter, my stamina about ran out. I was back to work, trying to help my patients, including those with metastatic cancer, while a number of my cyber-sisters with metastatic breast cancer were experiencing crises of their own. As November progressed, I found I’d survived Pinktober, but a few of my dearest friends were increasingly at risk for not surviving at all. My heart got a thrashing.

As two of these friends were moved into hospice care, I found myself both dreading to log onto social media for updates about them, and checking for updates about a million times a day. I know I don’t have to point out to most readers how profoundly we can connect online with our breast cancer sisters and brothers, and how much we end up loving them, even if we’ve never met them in person. At this moment, I don’t know what’s worse, feeling helpless about the suffering my friends are enduring while I am too far away even to hug them, or dreading the grief I know I will feel if and when I lose them.

All I can say is that, during recent weeks, I have experienced a level of shock comparable to how I felt when I was first diagnosed with cancer myself. My emotional priorities shrunk. I became absentminded about the pedestrian details of daily life, like where I left my cellphone, and whether I had enough clean laundry. Then there were the stories of terrorist slaughter in Beirut and Paris, not to mention the constant barrage of wretched news stories about political idiocy and violence and the U.S. I think anyone might be forgiven for experiencing a meltdown.

“So don’t mind if I fall apart. There’s more room in a broken heart. And I believe in love.” ~ Carly Simon

Love and peace.

Sometimes you can be too aware. Sometimes, you’ve just got to limit your exposure to the full freight of awareness. You’ve got to accept the fact that you can’t read and comment on every blog post or tweet or Facebook post about breast cancer, and not let yourself feel guilty about it. Sometimes, you’ve got to pick and choose your emotional priorities and recognize your limitations. Sometimes, you’ve got to admit that being a member of this miserable club can set you up for awareness fatigue. Sometimes, you have to sit with the consequences of how personal your own awareness is so that you can get off the couch and cope. It does no one any good to feel paralyzed.

Let’s face it. I’ve been writing this blog for nearly seven years now, and it would not be a stretch to say that nearly every post I’ve written has been devoted to breast cancer awareness of one sort or another. I’m grateful that some of my blog sisters still have the wherewithal to continue raising the awareness bar with clarity and some well-placed righteous snark, because I’m flummoxed and tired. My snark is currently busted. Checking on my friends in crisis and letting them know how much I love them is about all the awareness I can handle.

It’s interesting, though, how crises and sorrow can remind us of what’s important, what’s ultimately central to our lives, especially in this season. Loving my friends and making room for peace, that works for me.

This entry was written by Kathi, posted on Wednesday, December 02, 2015 at 03:12 pm, filed under Diagnosis, Recurrence, Screening, Making A Difference, Metastastatic Breast Cancer and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

10 Responses to “Awareness Is Personal”

  1. Kathi I hear you – I try to help through my ‘online’ connection to Knots and republishing her f/b comments. All I can say is sending {{{{{hugs}}}}} and take care of yourself, then look outwards.

  2. Thanks, Maxine. Our dear Knottita, as one of her friends calls her. It breaks my heart what she’s had to endure. It does help to know that so many of us love and cherish her. Hugs to you, too.

  3. Kathi, I’ve been feeling burned out for quite some time, with the awareness of my family, my online support groups and now with those I’ve met through blogging. It’s too heavy. I’ve been feeling really down the last few months. Too much exposure, together with the loss of control, has contributed to that.

    I hope we get to see some drastic changes, for the better.

    I also have a dear friend who was dx a few months before me and now she is struggling with stage 4. I find it hard to walk away because I feel I am already in it. We care. But you make a good point that it is OK to slow down and take a break to recharge emotionally. Thank you for acknowledging this and for the reminder to take care of ourselves.

    I hope you feel better. Please stay well.

  4. Thanks, Rebecca. I’m sorry to hear about what you are going through. I know you’ve already been through a lot this year. Oy, huh? I hope we can both find a little peace. Hugs to you.

  5. Hi Kathi,

    I totally get what you’re saying. Sometimes it just all becomes too much. Sometimes I ask myself, why not just turn away from it all, at least for a while? It’s hard to do that, too, though because as you know, we come to care deeply about many of our cyber sisters. There has to be some balance I guess, and this can be the tricky part. I do know that your voice of experience, knowledge, reason, compassion and yes, snark, is so valuable to many, including me. Loving those close to us and trying to find peace within ourselves is all any of can do. Giant hugs, dear friend. Thank you for the post. xx

  6. Thanks, Nancy. I think the main issue for me now is sheer volume. To state the horribly obvious, there are just so many new members of the Club every damn day, aren’t there? Can’t keep up with it all. But I can keep up with some. I am already feeling better, though. Decorating my tree this weekend really helped. Love to you, my friend.

  7. I hesitate to say cancer is beginning to bore me–that sounds so crude. Perhaps I mean the surrounding stuff bores me. It seems I’ve sat through the mammo debate umpteen times now, with little to no forward progress. It seems I’ve read a millions critiques of sexualizing breast cancer, yet it still keeps happening. Because I have NO patience and a very short attention span, this makes it hard to continue reading and commenting–and writing too. So yeah, I back away at times–or am forced to by work and exhaustion.
    I guess the good thing to keep in mind that while it is all old hat to me, it is new to and bewildering to the recently diagnosed, and they have sooo many blogs to read to assure them they are not alone–like I did when I was new at my anger. Your blog, and others’, were here to read even if you’d backed away from writing, reading, etc.
    I guess that is the small comfort?

  8. Oh, yes, indeed, Wendi. We all seem to say the same things over and over, whether we’re newbies or veterans, and some things just never seem to change, except perhaps infinitessimally. As I said to Nancy, I think it’s the volume that has gotten to me, and when I am then worried about specific people that I care about, something’s got to give. Oy. I’m down but I’m not out, though. xoxo, Kathi

  9. Kathi, you’re right; I often feel overwhelmed by so much awareness. It’s easy to go crazy trying to respond to every post or Facebook comment. I feel overwhelmed by the blitzkrieg of new members to this awful club, as well as the death toll. The world does need your voice and snark. Although you might feel less snarky these days, you still have it within you.

    Now to check out your parody post….

  10. Thanks, Beth. I think occasionally just the sheer exhaustion of it all does deplete my sense of humor. But eventually I do get it back. Thank heaven. I’d be nuts otherwise. Thanks for understanding and being supportive. Much appreciated. xo

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