If you give a girl under 35 breast cancer, then you can expect she will need a mastectomy.
If you give a girl a mastectomy, then you can expect she will need to cry buckets of tears, for which she will need a lot of shoulders.
If you give this girl a lot of shoulders, then you can expect she may eventually cry her way to laughter about her mastectomy.
If she cries her way to laughter about mastectomy, then you can expect this stupid-cancer-anthem will make her dance like a wild-woman.
But if she dances like a wild-woman, she will tire herself out and again she will need to cry buckets of tears, and this time she’ll need the phone numbers of everyone you know who’s a young woman who had breast cancer.
If you give the girl the phone numbers of some other young women who have/had breast cancer, you can expect that eventually she will FaceTime one of them, and they will talk for a very long time about the cancer haunted house they walk/ed through, and she will feel so very understood finally. And at the end of this conversation, the girl may need you to help to mark time around her pending mastectomy.
If you encourage a girl with an idea to mark time around her pending mastectomy, then you can expect an intimate boob farewell party involving boob-cake, fuck cancer tank-top decorating, and boob-shaped chocolates.
And that is what happened. So we will be doing boob-farewell things, very soon. We will iron-on FUCK CANCER screen prints to our tank tops and we will be eat boob-cake.
What I am really grateful for, tonight as mastectomy looms and cancer sucks, are the people in my network who know people who know what is up. And I don’t mean people who have been around with me in this treachery (though I am endlessly thankful for you people too!!!), I mean people who know people who have been through this treachery, and connect me to them.
Today I spent almost two hours talking to someone I only just met, Catherine, who is the partner of someone I know through academia, someone who writes me reference letters and who has read some of my work, but who I don’t know incredibly well beyond that. But. Catherine had breast cancer, she’s young, she’s through it, and she’s rocking at life, according to my definition of rocking at life, which is a pretty good definition, and involves: being alive, being healthy, writing some things, and showering the world in compassionate justice.
The point though, is that there are ways we can connect to each other that we never expected, there are people connected to people we know connected to people we know who share the deepest, most intimate experiences with us, and when we share our lives and are open to connection with each other we get something totally awesome. The universe tosses people in our paths who are just what we need- but we have to be able to see them. All too often fear, shame and uncertainty make the water murky and it becomes hard to connect.
I was very hesitant to tell the person who connected me to Catherine that I have breast cancer, but today, I know it was a hundred times the right decision, because well, look what happened. If we could measure how much better I feel now as opposed to before I talked to Catherine, it’d be off the charts. And yet, it took me months to reach out, though I’ve long known Catherine has breast cancer, and I’ve long-since binge-read her blog. I was tentative- I know the person who links me with her through a professional relationship only, even if we exchange emails with emoticons in them. I didn’t want to reach beyond or outside of professional relationships. I didn’t want to mess up the amazing reference-letter-skills of this academic, or dampen good will.
But you know what? F*ck that. We need to do away with the whole “professional” thing where it keeps us- and by us, I mean young women with breast cancer, but also, folks dealing with challenges that would be made easier by dealing with them in community- apart from each other. We young women are already so few and far between in breast-cancer-land, and there are so many grannies with breast cancer taking up space in between us it’s really hard to see through them all and find each other. So I’m delighted to have smashed those kinds of boundaries to let another kind of connection emerge. I still have the professional relationship. Now I just also have someone who’s experience is more like mine, someone who totally gets the unique contours of this experience I can’t quite yet grasp.
I am going to open my eyes. I am going to fling wide open my networks. I am going to make sure I connect people who travel similar roads. I am going to share what’s going on in my life, and soak up the connections. If not, what else is there? And universe, if you give a girl like me breast cancer, please also give her the people in her network to connect her to the other girls like me with breast cancer. We need each other desperately.