The Ones Who Came Before Me

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I’m a member of a Facebook group for women with breast cancer, and yesterday one of the women posted a gratitude thread. There were all the usual sentiments–gratitude for family, friends, the group itself, etc.–but one really struck me. I’m paraphrasing, but she said she was thankful for all the women who came before us; the ones who did the clinical trials that led to the drugs that fight our cancer, the ones who allowed doctors and researchers to discover new breakthroughs, the ones who survived and give us hope, and the ones who didn’t, reminding everyone how serious this disease is.

Her comment reminded me of the above photo, which I took last week while working the High Point Market (a big bi-annual furniture trade show here in NC, for the uninitiated).

I was taking a quick lunch break when I noticed the huge pink firetruck parked near a group of food trucks. After getting my food, I found a seat next to the truck to enjoy my meal. Sitting alone on that bench, I started reading all the messages written on the truck. There were so many–it was almost completely covered!

The more I read, the more emotional I got. There were so many in memory of someone lost–mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, wives, friends. We all know that cancer can kill us. This is an undeniable fact. But, in the interest of self-preservation and not going completely mad with fear and anxiety, I try to push that fact out of my mind as much as possible.

Seeing those names reminded me the disease I’m fighting takes women just like me all the time. In the middle of Pinktober, it was both a scary and good reminder–breast cancer is not all pink ribbons and festive charity walks. It’s a real, deadly disease. It ravages bodies. It decimates finances. It breaks up families. The lucky ones–the survivors–bear the scars and carry an unseen fear (will it return?) with them forever. The others lose it all.

But those weren’t the only names I read. I also saw the survivors. The ones who wrote how many years they’d been cancer-free. The ones who left uplifting messages reminding us to keep up the fight. The survivors keep me going.

So like my fellow group member, I also would like to thank the ones who came before us. No matter the outcome, their experiences made a difference and I am thankful for those courageous women.

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