Cancer Is… will be a monthly blog where Kai McGee will explore thoughts on what cancer is and is not through her lens of walking the journey as a survivor, thriver and champion for breast cancer awareness.
Cancer is a journey, a lifelong connection to a club that no one wants to be a member of – but those who are understand the enormity of what that membership entails. There is an unspoken bond between those in the fight, those in remission and those who are cancer-free. Cancer doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t matter how many degrees you have; your socio-economic status is irrelevant, your gender doesn’t give you a pass, in many ways it is the great equalizer.
As a woman who’s lived through a breast cancer diagnosis and grueling treatment, I’ve learned to embrace being a member of a tribe of bold, resilient, warriors. In the early stages of my diagnosis, I drowned in denial because it felt safer than reality. There were so many questions, and new medical terminology to learn, there was finding the right team to be in my corner and then there was finding myself through the tears, uncertainty and pervasive doubt about what the future would hold.
October is a month that leaves me with mixed emotions. Thirty-five years ago, it became Breast Cancer Awareness month in the United States and soon after the great majority of the world followed suit. Pink ribbons, pink paraphernalia, pink logos, even sports franchises become allies, donning pink with their uniforms. I appreciate the sentiment but as a survivor, it doesn’t always resonate.
In October 2014, I had just completed intensive chemotherapy and participated in a breast cancer walk with a team of loving family, friends and co-workers. My office put together the walk and named our group, Team Lady P. At less than ninety pounds I walked hand in hand with my eight-year-old son determined to make it to the finish line without being carried. When I crossed the finish line there was the most beautiful array of women, men, children, parents, grandparents all wearing pink. All there to believe in miracles for the living and to quietly honor those who have passed. It’s a vision I will never forget.
Every October, I hope that the festive pink color and strategic marketing doesn’t take away from an extremely painful reality. The reality that breast cancer is taking the lives of vibrant, young, women (and men) in staggering numbers. Long after the October themed celebrations and events end, after pink ribbons are removed from sweaters, there are patients and families enduring the weight of diagnosis, treatment and sometimes figuring out life after death.
October for me, is a month of remembrance. A month that I reflect on what I’ve been through, the friends I’ve lost to this callous disease, the fight to make sure women are checking their breasts and mammograms and ultrasounds are available to all. There is so far to go on this journey. I hope that the world will start to see we need support, advocacy and compassion every month of the year. Those of us who have been through the fire appreciate the kind gestures but need the love and committed support every day of the year not just in October when the world is painted pink.
Kai McGee is a writer who frequently explores parenting, her journey through breast cancer, social-justice and self-care. She is currently working on her memoir. Connect with her via Instagram @onanaturalkai