Late last week, there was a short-lived Facebook "game" that stirred the pot in this community. If you haven't read about it by now, people were posting status updates that said something to the effect of, "I'm ___ weeks along, and I'm craving ___." Now I have absolutely no idea how this got started or exactly what the rules were, but none of that matters. The game upset me.
The strange thing is, I was never truly upset about the pregnancy part of it. Yes, as someone who is infertile, it stung to read the fake pregnancy announcements on Facebook. I've made it clear that I don't find fake pregnancy announcements amusing. Not on April Fools Day. Not on any day. Real pregnancy announcements sting enough. Fake ones only add salt to the wound.
Instead, it upset me more that this "game" was supposedly meant to bring awareness to the fight against breast cancer.
As the daughter of a breast cancer survivor, I am not amused.
This year marks the 11th anniversary of my mom's fight against breast cancer. Some of you longtime readers know the story. For those who don't, I'll retell it as best I can.
My mom found the lump in the lymph node under her arm during a routine self-exam in early 2000. When she first went to the doctor, he was worried she might have an infection - causing the lymph node to swell. He placed her on antibiotics and told her to keep an eye on it. When the lump didn't go away, it became clear she needed surgery. On February 14, 2000, my mom underwent a lumpectomy to remove both the lymph node and the tumor. Four days later, she was diagnosed with cancer. It was stage 2.
I was 14 years old, and I remember having to carefully walk my mom to the bathtub when her chemo treatments became so painful that she could barely bend her knees. I remember sleeping on the floor of her room in a sleeping bag when she was too sick to be alone in the middle of the night. I remember her losing all of her hair, picking out scarves and hats for her to wear when we went out in public, and giving the death look to the people who stared at her in stores - as if they'd never seen someone with cancer before.
I also remember when her oncologist told her she was cancer-free. It was one of the happiest days of my life. 11 years later, she's still not "out of the woods." She goes in for regular scans and blood work. The tiniest spot on a CT scan gets her doctor ordering 10 more tests, just to be sure. I'm not sure the fear of the cancer coming back will ever go away for her. Or for me. Or for my brother. At 14, it was my wake-up call that my time with her wasn't forever.
And last year, at 24, I faced the same fear when I went in to have the tumor removed from my right breast. The fear of a life cut way too short. The fear of not having enough time to do everything I wanted to do.
Now maybe you can understand why I felt angry that someone would start such an immature, childish game to bring awareness to such a serious disease. I'm not sure this person considered the feelings of the survivor community. Does this person realize that many breast cancer survivors are also infertile - unable to become pregnant after going through massive amounts of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, or even hysterectomies? Better yet, does this person realize that, by posting a Facebook status, they are doing absolutely nothing to help find a cure for breast cancer?
That was the point behind my own, retaliatory status on Thursday:
Fake pregnancy Facebook statuses don't lead to a cure for breast cancer. You know what does? Self exams. Donating to legitimate organizations like the American Cancer Society. Getting a mammogram. Playing a status game on Facebook didn't save my mom's life. I'm pretty sure it won't save anyone else's, either.
Posting your bra color. Posting that you're pregnant. None of it matters. If you really give a damn about breast cancer, do something about it. Because in the three minutes it takes someone to play that Facebook game, another woman in this country dies from breast cancer. Another woman loses her life to an illness that we could prevent. Breast cancer is not a game. Breast cancer is real, and it hurts. I don't expect people to understand unless they've been through it as a survivor or a caregiver. But I do expect people to be sensitive toward it.
So for once, I'm not the angry infertile. Instead, I'm just the angry daughter who doesn't want to see people make a mockery over the hell her mom went through.
My absolute favorite organization that benefits cancer research is the American Cancer Society. Please visit this link to learn more about what they are doing for cancer research, how they aid cancer patients on a personal level, and what they are doing in your area in October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.