I’ve never considered myself to be particularly strong. I’m average. Average height, average intelligence, averagely overweight, average hair color, I’m even the average age most women are when they are diagnosed with breast cancer. I’m the very definition of average. But being average doesn’t prepare you for the fight of a lifetime. Suddenly, just muddling through isn’t good enough any more. Millions of average women around the globe learn this message the instant their doctor gives them the devastating news.
Someone asked me one time if I asked myself, “Why me?” My honest answer was, “No.” Because why not me? I’m average. Average women get diagnosed with breast cancer every single day. Getting diagnosed is average, but fighting it is anything but average. Battling cancer is hard — it’s not for the weak. Average men and women don capes and become Above Average Man/Woman. Because the average cancer patient has a family, friends, a job, bills, and responsibilities along with a bed we can’t seem to get out of for days on end if chemo is involved. The list of side-effects from the drugs we’re on is longer than the list of drugs themselves (which really is something impressive in and of itself).
Cancer robs us of the big things everyone sees, like our hair, healthy skin, a little extra body fat, nice nails, eyelashes, and eyebrows. But it takes so many more things that are less visible. It takes our ambition, our appetite, our energy, our ability to think clearly, it monkeys with our potassium levels, white blood counts, blood calcium levels, and platelets. It makes our food taste like tin, so even if we wanted to eat something, it all has a metallic tang like an old rusty can of rainwater found on the side of the road.
I’ve met so many amazing people in my treatments. All fighting different forms of this heinous disease. The one thing I’ve noticed about all of us, regardless of age, gender, quantity of hair, or length of our journey, is that cancer has not robbed us of our will to fight. Even when someone is hanging on for the drug trial that might only buy them time, they want that last chance and hold onto hope that it will allow them to live long enough to make it to the next trial which might just be the cure.
No matter how much strength we find within ourselves or our fellow fighters, we need those who matter the most to us. Our friends and families who are there for us, stroking our hair, sending a hot meal, offering to pick up our kids, dropping a card in the mail to ensure we know they’re thinking about us, making us laugh with YouTube videos, these are the real moments that keep us going. And those behind them are the real superheroes.