Care for the person
October 1, 2020
“Save the Ta-Tas.”
I really do not like that saying. I’m not a big fan of pink décor being strung everywhere, either. Not just because I feel so much pink in an affront to the eyes. In past year, the trumpeting of “Breast Cancer Awareness” feels like the trumpets are slightly out of tune. It has felt like, to me, everyone just wanted an excuse to raise awareness about breasts and were sexualizing and making light of a serious issue.
Late one night in October of 2006, I stopped at my grandparents’ home. I had just returned after a long trip and needed to let them know I made it back safely. Grandma was in the front room where you could see the front lawn and traffic going by, although there wasn’t much traffic on their rural road. I went in to talk to her, give her and Grandpa a kiss, before going to my apartment a few miles away.
What made this visit different was the fact that Grandma had not woken up for three days. She was on hospice, laying on a hospital bed in the front room. Three of her children had already returned to be by her side. I did not want to cry in front of everyone, so I only thought the words, “I love you,” I did not say them out loud. It’s one of the biggest regrets of my life. I think Grandma was only holding on to make sure I made it home safely because she passed away that night, a few hours before her last child was able to make it home.
The end had come quickly. A few months before, things were pretty well. Grandma, being her lovable-cranky self, had days she didn’t want to leave her chair and only wanted milk and bread to eat, but we thought she was fine otherwise. In 2003 she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She was part-way through chemo when nearly the whole family gathered for Christmas at her house. While taking about scars around the dinner table where the adults played cards almost every evening, she grabbed the front of her shirt and asked if we wanted to see her double-mastectomy scars, a twinkle in her eye. We passed on the offer, by the way. My mom crocheted beanie hats to help keep Grandma’s head warm as her hair fell out from the treatment.
Grandma “beat” breast cancer; she was declared clean, or in remission, or whatever the term they use now is. As far as I was concerned, the cancer was gone. The sacrifice of her aged mammary glands was no big deal, her hair grew back, Grandma was just fine.
Until she wasn’t. Until the day she went in for a routine check up and they called the same day to have her come back the next day. The cancer was in her liver and colon. It was less than two months before I gave her that last kiss and was too scared to say I love you.
Breast cancer awareness is not about the ta-tas. It’s about the person behind them. It’s about the woman—or in rare cases man—fighting to prolong and save their life. If you feel the need to decorate in pink, go ahead. But, more importantly, help. Encourage a reluctant friend to get her mammogram. Give a ride or casserole to the woman going through treatment. Donate money to help people you don’t even know access screenings. Make hats for those who have lost their hair in their fight.
And say I love you. Tell any person fighting any cancer every chance you get, I love you. It’s not about the pink ribbons or the breasts, it’s about the heart and soul of the person and all they are. Be aware of that person, their needs, their fight and support them. This month, I am very aware of breast cancer and what it means in a person’s life and the lives of those around them. I’m also aware that I didn’t say I love you enough.