It’s funny.  I do a lot of talking online about cancer and survivorship and what happened, and I give talks professionally all the time, but put them together and it’s a whole new level of scary.  You see, I started talking about cancer on my blog because I wasn’t good at talking about it in real life.  I didn’t call up my girlfriends and chat casually about chemo or mastectomy … or my fears.  I typed it here instead, telling all of you, but without the risk that face-to-face emotion entails.  It was the way I coped.

But last night, at @kbaumler’s invitation, I spoke to a room of 100 Relay for Life runners, team captains, activists, survivors (a few), and caregivers (many, oh, so many) about my story.  About what it was like to have cancer.  About what it was like to survive cancer, to help kick off their Relay for Life 2009 season.

I didn’t know what to talk about.  Kristina said, “tell your story.”  So I did.  The first draft came out kinda dark.  I think I brightened it up some with a subsequent draft but it was still not a happy story.  But how could cancer be a happy story?  Yes, yes, I’m thrilled to be alive again, but the end result of a year of struggle and pain and work is … that I’m at the starting line again.  I’m alive. … but so are all of you, y’know?  It’s hard to be grateful for — or happy about — cancer.

But today I am grateful, for I was able to help three people yesterday.

1. @alexcaseybaby, whose twitters about a friend having a preventative double mastectomy came just as I was doubting my words.

2. A woman who came up after my talk last night and told me that she was grateful that I spoke the forbidden words — acknowledging that the fight against cancer does not end with the good news that the tumor is gone.

3. Another mom, who happened to be sitting at my table last night with her two kids, as I sat there with my two kids, all of them eating fruit and snacks together, who left as I began my talk.  I worried then that I had offended — but as it turns out there was more to the story.  You see, she has cancer too.  She’s having surgery on Monday and has to tell her kids … today.  She needed to hear me talk, to see me standing there, to see that there is life beyond cancer.

And talking to her afterwards, as I told @mommy4cocktails, who so graciously came out just to hear me and sit by my side (and for which I’m forever grateful!), was the reason that I’d been brought there.

That made it all worthwhile.

8 Responses to Speaking

  1. Robin says:

    Sorry I couldn’t make it last night.
    Your essay is wonderful.

  2. Susan K says:

    You know, having read you so much and so long, I was really surprised to see your reaction on Saturday to Beth’s innocent question about your necklace. I can totally GET that it is very different to talk than it is to write.

    You talked to her very well and it sure sounds like you talked last night very well too. Practice. Just like anything else. And I hope you Do practice, because you are as eloquent in speaking as you are in type.

  3. whymommy says:

    Thanks, Susan and Robin. I appreciate it….

  4. I wish I could have been there. Your drafts are wonderful and I’m sure you ignited the fire in all of those volunteers!

  5. Heather says:

    You just never know who is listening for that thing they most need to hear. Glad you had the opportunity to speak with honesty about an experience I wish you never had.

  6. Tinagirl says:

    I am constantly amazed. I wish I had been there, for you as an audience member to cry when your story touched my heart and to smile when you needed a friendly face looking back at you. Just think, you educated, you gave faith and hope, you inspired by using your words. How peaceful would this Earth be if we could all do that?

  7. NoRegrets says:

    yes, if you impact even just one person, it’s all worthwhile.

  8. Amy@UWM says:

    Susan, I’m so glad you had a chance to speak to that Relay group. I work for the American Cancer Society and am a cancer survivor and mom. There’s no doubt that your story is inspiring. Aside from those three that you helped, you really helped the whole room by reminding them why they’re doing Relay in the first place — to save lives from cancer.

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