Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Changing Narratives

For the longest time October would arrive with difficult memories of my father's death. When I was 24 he went into the hospital with severe headaches and then died within three weeks of small cell lung cancer that had metastasized to his brain. He was 52.  My family's shock and grief felt so disabling I wondered how we would find our way again, collectively and individually.

But you do, because that is how love works through time.

The Perfect Purple
Eventually October reclaimed its spot as one of the best times of the year - sparkling fresh air, cider, cinnamon, and little goblins dressed in sheets coming up the driveway with flashlights and parents in tow.  Even in l998 October was still a month. That year it marked the beginning of my second course of chemotherapy, a milestone of sorts in my own cancer narrative.  October marked the first (of two) times I particiatped in a Komen walk in an outrageously awesome t-shirt my beautiful sister produced just for the event.  The shirt was my favorite color - purple.  She had enough made so I could give them to the special men and women who'd done so much for all of us during treatment.

That's how love through time works.

And this year October changes again.  All of us who care and write about lives affected by cancer sense a shift.  Conversations about breast cancer are changing, thanks to the work of writers and truth tellers who speak honestly about their experience with breast cancer.  While the changing conversation isn't fast enough to dampen the suffering in our midst we keep at it, louder and louder, because we can.   And we must.  I just realized yesterday (ah, some of us are slow) that those learning about breast cancer from their own diagnosis or that of a friend come into the experience bombarded with the pink images it took many of us years to deconstruct.  Gayle Sulik, Ph.D., author of  Pink Ribbon Blues, dedicated ten years of research, interviewing and writing to become an "overnight" success and change agent in breast cancer culture. We are all the wiser to remember the time it takes and collective work necessary to approach a tipping point.

A debt of gratitude to all of you truth-tellers for your honesty and advocacy.


And a huge thank you to Liz Szabo, for the wonderful spotlight she provided to the conversations we're changing through #BCSM.  Her write-up, with video: "Breast cancer survivor group is a social movement."

#BCSM co-moderators Deanna Attai, MD, Alicia Staley and I are incredibly honoroed.  If you haven't checked Liz's other articles on her breast cancer and health issues please do so.  Just this month alone has covered inflammatory breast cancer, breast cancer and pregnancy and ways to help breast cancer survivors in way that is informative, real, and immediate.  I think she's one of a kind.

Also thanks to Liz Scherer (it's a Liz day!) for the awesome shout on her blog FLASHFREE: It's Not Your Momma's Menopause in:  Hold Your Breasts; it's Breast Cancer Awareness Month.'

While I'm on Liz movement...add in:)


The Accidental Amazon said...

I think those of us who've also had cancer treatment during the month of October develop a particular burr about the pinkwashing of this month. Some of the most profound moments of enlightenment about the nonsense and inadquacies of so-called breast cancer awareness occurred for me because of being on the receiving end of a galling lack of genuine support from friends & colleagues while I was struggling through the misery of treatment in October. Amazing. My eyes have been wide open since.

It's still my favorite month in terms of Mother Nature, but because of cancer, October remains for so many of us a bittersweet month.

Great post, Jode, and kudos again on the much-deserved recognition about #bcsm. xoxo

Jody said...

Eyes wide open, Kathi. I completely get that completely.

But October in the natural world: is something to behold. In Texas we get a gradual browning, so I'm banking on your photos and musings of what the real thing is like to keep me sustained.

Thanks so much for being an essential part of the conversation.

xxoo -

Jody said...

Posting for Gayle Sulik. She emailed me this comment was chewed up by Blogger. No, I am not making this up..

Dear Jody,

It's interesting that you posted this today. I too just wrote about YOU and #BCSM, and the community of change agents who have been planting seeds for a long time in this growing social movement. To think about how much has gone into this. It is a lot of time, commitment, frustration, energy, and much needed support of one another that makes it possible. And then, seemingly suddenly, critical mass and the beginning of a new paradigm. May it continue with renewed fervor.

Onwards and upwards!

Gayle Sulik

Nancy's Point said...

I didn't realize October held these memories for you, Jody. So many unknown to others stories within each of us. I'm sorry you lost your dad to cancer that October long ago. And then those chemo memories too...

This October it is exciting to think and wonder about the shift which seems to be taking place. You have done so much to help bring this shift about. Thank you for all you have done and are doing. You're a force to be sure! Congrats on the recognition this week. It's well deserved.

And I will always love October. I will not give it up. It's still my favorite month.

Great post. Thank you.

Jody said...

I love this thought: never surrender October. It IS a miraculous month. I was born in New York State, then we moved to Iowa when I was ten. We'd spending afternoons outside playing in the it's good to remember those memories, too.

Cancer retracks narratives and all of us have thousands of storeis within. I'm glad to be part of this conversation with you.

Thanks for reading, and your wonderful support,

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