However, I live in a society where people tend to talk about love through very limited and specific contexts. If I say love, people often think about romance and passion first. If it is not the love of a partner or spouse, they think about love within a family context like the relationship between a parent and child, between siblings, or between a person and any number of people in their extended family.
Yesterday morning, I went on Facebook to post in a support group for young breast cancer patients and survivors. I got connected to this group Young Survival Coalition at the recommendation of another survivor shortly after I was diagnosed. After reading the website, I signed up for their Facebook group as soon as I realized they had one.
Since I joined the online group, I’ve mostly read other people’s stories, comments, questions, fears, and victories in their battles with breast cancer. Sometimes their fears have amplified mine, but their hopes also have given me hope when mine felt low.
As a newbie to breast cancer, I got to learn about terminology, resources, and other issues that I otherwise wouldn’t have known had I not joined that online group. More knowledge can be both disconcerting and comforting; therefore, I have to be very mindful of how I interact with the page. Overall though I find the benefits to outweigh any discomfort I feel from reading patients’ and survivors’ challenges and fears. We all need an outlet to share our unfiltered thoughts, and that forum serves that purpose.
This online support group for young breast cancer survivors is the opposite of content that I find highly annoying online, and that content is inspiration porn.
During my first few weeks of recovery from surgery, my family visited me. My sister flew in a couple days before my mastectomy and stayed for a week. She overlapped by a day with my parents, who stayed in a hotel near my home for almost a week and a half.
By the end of my parents’ last visit with me, my mom raised the topic of how people didn’t know how to talk to me. That is why some of them hadn’t said anything to me about my breast cancer diagnosis.
For context, this is an issue that came up quite a bit after I was initially diagnosed. My sister asked what she could share. A few cousins asked what they could share. Somehow other members of my extended family aren’t sure what they can or cannot say about my diagnosis to others.
Some relatives wanted to share my story with others, and other relatives were saying that they shouldn’t. I heard this from a few different sources in my family.
My mom said that some relatives told others to “just pray” for me—or at least that’s the story in this never-ending game of telephone.
Last Wednesday, student Nikolas Cruz shot and killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida. Like many of you, I was saddened to hear about one more mass shooting. This case is especially grave since early news reports revealed that he had a history of violence, and it was so evident that his classmates used to joke that he would become a murderer one day. In fact, senior administrators and teachers at his school were warned about him. Still the shooting happened. Still many politicians and other people are offering thoughts and prayers to the victims.
The day after the shooting, I saw that several friends had posted the following photo on Facebook:
My reaction to the photo was mixed. Why can’t we have thoughts and prayers as well as policy and change? While I respect that not everyone believes in thoughts and prayers, why do thoughts and prayers have to be framed as mutually exclusive from policy and change?