It's not supposed to be this close.
Usually it's affecting a distant relative that lives in another state, “Oh did you hear? (Blank) has breast cancer.” Or even more distant people, “Hey do you remember that girl from middle school? No not that one, her friend, yeah that one, yeah I heard she has breast cancer.” But never does it get closer than that, right? It's that idea of invincibility, that somehow we can see things happening in our world, yet subconsciously convince ourselves that we are somehow the exception; somehow we are immune. Yet there we were sitting in Marie Calendars across from my mom and dad, as the words spilled from her mouth onto the table “I have breast cancer.”
Words like that don't weigh anything like the cliche says, they smack you in the face sure, but then they send up a dark cloud that lingers over your table for hours; like a volcanic ash, can't see clearly, can't breathe deeply. I don't remember anything else at that meal. It was as if there was a thick static curtain. I saw her mouth moving. I saw my dad trying his best to dry his eyes without major movement. My wife Corina did most of the talking with my mom. Once we got in the car I even remember turning to Corina and saying “Wait...Mom has cancer?” I then proceeded to ask my wife a list of questions that my mother had just spent an hour answering, because I mean, there has to be a mistake, they’ve got the wrong family.
I've heard it said that God gives the biggest battles to His strongest soldiers. Bullshit. God allows things to happen to anybody. He doesn’t dish out diseases like Christmas presents. There is no karma to it, and to find a rhyme or reason to it will drive you crazy. You know what causes cancer? Genetic predisposition, mutation of cells, that's what causes cancer. It doesn't care who you are. It doesn’t care who your God is. If sickness was distributed based on merit or sainthood, well then my mom would watch us all get cancer first. Cancer chooses whomever it wants, and those people choose to be strong soldiers. For my mom cancer wasn't as strong as it thought it was, it couldn't even get my mom to flinch (in front of us). I saw her cry more when our dog Coco died a few weeks prior. I’m still sitting here in awe at how my mother has literally taken this “cancer” thing, pinched it behind the arm (that’s her signature move), and walked it out the door. Not today breast cancer, not today.
Throughout the entire ordeal, the only time I saw my mother lose her composure was on her day of surgery. The immediate family was in the private waiting room awaiting the big goodbye before she got wheeled into the operation room. The nurse gave her a heads up that the first dose of anesthesia they were giving her would make her feel “loopy and maybe sleepy.” Well my mother is a towering 5’ tall so when they gave her the first dose of anesthesia it hit her like a ton of bricks, she became confused and went into a dazed-panic because she thought she was at the hospital because one of us was injured. Did you read that correctly? Read it again. My mother lost her composure ONE time during her bout with breast cancer...and it was when she thought one of US was in danger. You can't find a Marvel hero with this kind of character. Yet...here she was with breast cancer, a saint...with cancer, fair huh? I can tell you where you can shove your “Karma.”
The symbolism to wear pink in October to signify Breast Cancer has almost become a trendy fashion statement. I'd say a very small percentage of people who wear pink actually have action that follows it up. For those of you that know me, you know that I get fighting angry at any religion or group of people that choose to pray or send thoughts ONLY. I am a man of Faith yes, but faith without works is dead. You know what your prayers alone do for the breast cancer research funds? Nothing. When you send your thoughts and create a catchy hashtag, do you know what happens to the bank accounts to those charities, absolutely nothing.
Oh but when you change your profile picture to a pink ribbon and wear pink......nope still nothing. Show me action, real quantifiable action. I was guilty of this a few years back, our gym would post about Barbells for Boobs (CrossFit-inspired charity) but if I’m being honest, that was where my self back-patting would begin and my action would end. The truth of the matter is that we live in the selfie-generation. If it’s not publicly known then why do it? You have people that have to post three videos a day of their workout, or literally post screenshots of “private text messages” to brag about what somebody said to them or what they said to somebody. I understand that when you wear pink that it raises awareness to breast cancer...but who doesn’t know what the pink ribbon stands for by now? Do you really think that your hashtag and pink shirt is going to turn a head while you’re at Target and prompt somebody to ask, hey so what is this Breast Cancer you speak of?
Wear those things, hashtag away, show your moral support absolutely, but must we revisit Finance 101 and ask what that does to fund the charities that help women pay for mammograms? Want to get brutally real? The average cost of a mammogram is $100, a recommended annual procedure. With your donation of $100, you are paying for 1 woman to find out if they have breast cancer. How much did that venti caramel macchiato cost you a few days ago, and yesterday, and today; how about those cocktails on Friday night? Would you be willing to skip a morning perk a few days a week to save a mother? A sister? A daughter? You want to see action from the Barbells for Boobs organization; to date they have provided 38,517 procedures, served 20,530 individuals and detected 271 cases of breast cancer (that’s an old statistic by now...those numbers have grown).
I used to say that my mom was the strongest woman I know, as I have learned this past season of life, I was dead wrong. My mother is the strongest person I have ever met. I used to to view mental toughness through a competitive lens only, thinking that was the pinnacle; the level of toughness we should all strive for. However, once again Mom has more lessons to teach me. Not loudly, but in her quiet unshaken strength. God may not choose to give us diseases, God may not throw cars in our paths and cause accidents, but in His omniscience, if your number does get called in the Master Plan and a mean bugger like cancer comes a knockin’, grab that helmet and get ready to fight. In this case, cancer knocked on the wrong door...not today cancer...not today.