Thank you for your support of the fight against breast cancer. By turning the White House pink last week and issuing a proclamation October 1, you joined so many in America (and the previous administration) wishing us well, thanking our caregivers, and approving of the research that gives us hope. I’m sure it was beautiful.
I didn’t see the pink White House, because while you and your staff were lighting your house pink, I was just a few miles up the road, explaining to my little boys that Mommy was too tired to play after dinner because the chemotherapy I take is fighting the cancer cells spread throughout my body. That I couldn’t pick them up from school because the chemo takes so much energy that I had to nap instead. That I was fighting as hard as I could, and that it would get better, but for now, Mommy had to rest. Because Mommy has cancer.
I’m a three-time survivor of breast cancers that don’t get a lot of attention, even during breast cancer awareness month. Despite all the pink saturating our government buildings, the grocery store, and the pharmacy, there is still very little research on inflammatory breast cancer, the most aggressive of the breast cancers, and the one I’ve gotten twice in three years. My hope for a cure lies not in the giant breast cancer organizations, but in the rare research grant that could bring a breakthrough in this terribly fast-moving cancer that will surely kill me before I have the chance to see my children go to middle school.
I’m lucky in many ways. Had I been diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer thirty years ago, I wouldn’t have seen my children go to kindergarten, because 98% of women with IBC then did not survive five years, and my youngest was only a baby when I found out that I had the disease.
I’m here today because of research. But I’m also here today asking for your help for more funding for research for inflammatory breast cancer and for all cancers. One in eight Americans will get cancer in their lifetime, and nearly all of us have been personally touched by this awful disease.
Touched is an understatement. Where just five years ago, I was a vibrant young mom, a NASA scientist, with my whole world at my fingertips, now I am too weak to travel. Too weak to help my children at the playground. Too weak to go to the grocery store, and too weak for date night with my husband. I spend my days in bed or working at my desk, trying to eke out a life while the cancer and the chemo ravage my body, steal my energy, take away my hunger, and make me tired in my bones.
Cancer is not pretty. It’s not pink. And it doesn’t really care about all the games being played in its name during breast cancer awareness month. Cancer is a deadly, bloody, life-taking disease that has killed too many of my friends and is trying to kill me as well.
I’m doing everything I can to fight this disease, with my medications, with physical therapy, with donations to research, and with my words as I tell my story so that others can understand what it’s really like inside breast cancer.
Or is changing the light bulbs the most that this White House can do to fight cancer?