I’ve been thinking about community a lot lately. I have looked at community differently at different times in my life and, being an introvert, always with a bit of trepidation. Being open and vulnerable is not easy, especially if you’ve been burned a few times.
What community means to me
When I was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer, I started exploring the possibilities within the breast cancer community. I joined a lot of online support groups and I lurked. I lurked a lot. I still lurk a lot. I’d venture into a few discussions, always after watching how others engaged first. Once I knew I was metastatic, it was a whole different ballgame.
Why there will always be a divide
Now that over two (2) years have passed since my metastatic diagnosis, I’m still in a lot of groups, but very few mixed groups. Mixed meaning a mix of stages. It’s hard, you see, to read all of the woo-hoo posts of people done with surgeries, done with chemo, done with radiation. I don't begrudge them their celebrations and I'm better at scrolling on by now that I've had more experience. The signs, the boas, the celebrations...it’s rough for those of us who will never be done with treatment.
Overcoming that divide
The other day, a dear friend who has early-stage breast cancer was upset because her doctors had not called her with the results of the pathology of her tissue that was removed during her hysterectomy. She had worked herself up into being pretty frantic and was really worried about her appointment post-operation appointment since she had convinced herself that the reason they hadn't called her was that they had to give bad news in person. So I offered to take her, to be with her as she got whatever news was going to be delivered.
A benign pathology report
Spoiler alert, her pathology was benign and we celebrated together after the appointment with a lovely lunch at a French restaurant. As an aside, I was and am super upset that the doctor couldn’t just alleviate her worries with a phone call (or even return the multiple voicemails she left) and they didn’t even lead with the best news, that the pathology was benign. Medical providers can and should do better.
No one is alone
The point I am trying to make is that we metsters have experienced things that make us uniquely qualified to help others. I could say with confidence to my friend that whatever the pathology report said, she could handle it. I could say, even if the news is the worst possible, I’m dealing with the same things and I will walk with you through that. I could say, you are not alone.
Isn’t that what community really is!? In a community, no one is alone.
Despite all the comparing and the divides between early stagers and those of us who are metastatic, we often deal with very similar things. The emotions are so similar. The angst of a mother not wanting to make her children’s lives harder nor a wife not wanting to burden her husband further or a friend who doesn’t have cancer friends to lean on. We can be that friend to others. And we should be that support to others.
Who can you support today!?
How old were you when you were diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer?