The Old and New C Words
The old C word, has been regarded as the “rudest, crudest, most taboo term in the English language, the superstar of four-letter words.” On the off occasion I happen to hear it, I typically have the same reaction as if a bomb had gone off in my ears.
I find the NEW c word (with a lower case c) to be almost as distasteful to my ears. Maybe because of the experience I’ve had with breast cancer and all that that means to me. Maybe because within the last two weeks, I’ve had three friends diagnosed with cancer, two of the thyroid, one an advanced skin cancer. Maybe because of how those little pink ribbons are EVERYWHERE, they almost seem to mean NOTHING, when in fact, they represent QUALITY OF LIFE for everyone they have ever touched, and their families. Maybe for a combination of those reasons the c word is not high on my list of words.
Pink Ribbon Overload
Is it just me, or do you see pink ribbons everywhere? From the most common places to the darndest places. Commercials, magazines, in every single store imaginable, on shoes, on billboards, on athletes, heck, on the uniforms of the football players on my son’s X-box Live game. Here they are, stamped on each egg I recently purchased:
Yes, I’m well aware that it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Take the friends who have recently been diagnosed, my own experience, the barrage of pink ribbons and consider how often it touches all of our lives — this whole c word phenomenon has put such a bad taste in my mouth I see it as the new c word, not worthy of even a capital letter.
This should not be confused or placed in the same category with ‘He Who Shall Not Be Named,’ the reference to Voldemort, the main antagonist in Harry Potter, so vile, his name was not uttered aloud due to what it represented: pure evil and visceral fear. No, the c word is nothing to be feared, it just doesn’t deserve all the play it gets.
Really, it boils down to this one question:
What Do You Own?
Let me explain.
Last year, exactly five weeks after undergoing a bi-lateral mastectomy, I received a piece of mail listing different breast cancer events that were being held at a Dallas hospital. As I tossed the letter in the recycle bin, I wondered why I had received it. Were they simply sending one to every residence in my zip code? That must be expensive. Surely they have a better system to track their target audience. It took a few moments, but then it dawned on me: I am their target audience. Had I not been treated for breast cancer in that very hospital? Did I not have a plastic surgeon, breast surgeon, and oncologist who all resided in that hospital?
I relayed the same story to a girlfriend later that afternoon, highlighting the odd sensation I had felt upon my realization. The fact that I had given pause at all seemed a bit unnatural to me. I mean, at that point, I still had one more surgery to go, perhaps two.
She responded with the following story:
A while back, her sister had gone through the genetic testing that indicates whether or not you carry the gene. In other words, whether you’re predisposed to getting breast cancer in the future. It doesn’t equate to, Yes you will, or No you won’t, it simply indicates whether you have the gene. Her sister did. (I, by the way, did NOT.)
She told me, from that point on, it became her sister’s identity. Her sister underwent a voluntary bi-lateral mastectomy and became very active in the breast cancer community. She was at every walk, every fund raiser, and the list went on. My friend said it consumed her sister. She had completely owned it. And by allowing it to define who she was, it had owned her right back.
Just to be clear: I‘m not suggesting her sister chose a ‘wrong’ stance. I feel confident that all of her volunteer efforts have been very much appreciated. I can only imagine she has formed lasting friendships through it, that it has led to the raising of much research money, and many more positive outcomes.
This is merely an example of how we ALL choose to own things, or handle things, differently. Not right, not wrong, but differently. In my reality, I never owned it, not to the degree that it defined me. I think it comes from a belief system that pulsed at my core from the onset of receiving the diagnosis: I Am Whole, I Am Healed. I Am Whole, I Am Healed. And I always was.
It’s the difference between seeing yourself as a Survivor or a Sur-thriver. As humans, we each have challenges we face — maybe a divorce or the loss of a loved one, or maybe even c. How have these challenges defined you? Have you survived? Or have you THRIVED because of the experience?
What Do You Own? Does what you own benefit you? Drain you? Define you?…. and if it does define you, is it your intention to be defined by that particular thing? Maybe the answer is yes. Maybe it’s no.
Take a moment and ask yourself these questions. I encourage you to make changes where you see fit; give yourself a high-five if you confirm you’re right where you’d like to be. I believe checking in with yourself from time to time contributes to our Thriving.
As a side note, I’m fortunate to have a step-father who’s 93-years old, someone who can share stories of how life used to be. He told me that when he was growing up, the c word was never said out loud. It was whispered, usually with your hand in front of your mouth — a double gesture, “similar to saying a dirty word out loud,” he explained. I find that piece of our language-history very interesting.
It may seem backwards to write a post about not giving too much attention to the c word — because by writing it, I’m giving it attention, am I not? So why would I ask you to share it? Wouldn’t that put it out there more? You should share it so there’s an awareness around the role cancer plays, not in our day to day lives, but in the broader picture of all LIFE. And more importantly, to illustrate the meat and potatoes of this post: Becoming Aware and Acknowledging What You Own.