Breast cancer brings an unexpected type of notoriety. Read this survivor's story.
Bonnie Annis is a breast cancer survivor, diagnosed in 2014 with stage 2b invasive ductal carcinoma with metastasis to the lymph nodes. She is an avid photographer, freelance writer/blogger, wife, mother and grandmother.
The email sat in my inbox for several days before I decided to open it. Another breast cancer-related email wasn’t on the top of my priority list of reads. Truth be told, they’d started to feel a little passé. Four years since diagnosis and I’d done everything in my power to basically forget about cancer, but it seemed impossible to do so.
Breast cancer had made me an instant celebrity of sorts. Although I’d rather have received accolades for something less painful, I’d finally learned to accept the notoriety. No matter how hard I tried to dismiss the fact that cancer had been a part of my life, it was as if it would forever be a part of me.
Throughout the year, invitations would appear randomly in my mailbox, on my voicemail or digitally via email. Breast cancer organizations would make contact wanting my participation in various events they were hosting. There were survivor dinners, 5K walks, and those awful pink ribbon fundraisers.
I wasn’t anyone special. I was just your average, run-of-the-mill woman who’d survived breast cancer, so why did all of these organizations make me feel I was so much more?
Being in the public eye isn’t quite my cup of tea. I’m a sidelines kind of girl. When I was invited to attend my first Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, I was horrified when they asked the survivors to go up on stage. My face blood red and my heart beating out of my chest, I made my way to the steps, but didn’t want to. As I walked on stage with a host of other women, the tiniest balloon of pride burst inside me. I realized, when a survivor’s ribbon was placed around my neck, that I actually did deserve a little notoriety. My fight hadn’t been easy. Although this was all very new to me, I accepted the award graciously and made my way back to my seat.
Every year since then, one organization or another contacts me. Some want to honor me for my survivorship and others just want me to participate in helping them raise funds for awareness. Whatever the case may be, those contacts are a constant reminder that breast cancer will forever be part of my life. There’s no forgetting it. There’s no escaping it. And even though, at times, I’d like to ignore those flyers, emails, letters and calls, I don’t.
The reason I don’t ignore the contacts is because I’m honored to be remembered. Most of the contacts are not directed specifically toward me. They’re usually blanket approaches to reach many women affected by breast cancer but as a survivor, one can’t help but become a little “puffed up.”
It’s a mystery to me. How do these organizations find me? Is there some huge database of breast cancer survivors they glean information from or do doctors and hospitals share general information gathered from their patients? Since I’ve never registered with any of these organizations, it’s baffling. If you’re a breast cancer survivor and you haven’t received a contact yet, don’t worry…it’s coming!
This weekend, I will attend a Relay for Life survivors’ dinner. The event precedes one of their upcoming walks. The event will be held at our local county fairgrounds. A lovely dinner will be provided along with free entertainment and survivors’ recognition afterward. One of the perks of attending this function is meeting other survivors from my city and surrounding area. I’ll also receive a free t-shirt to add my growing collection and another survivor’s medal. But more importantly, I’ll be reminded that I should never take my survivorship for granted. No, I’m not really a celebrity nor do I want to be, but I am still alive and that’s something I need to celebrate every single day.