Breast Cancer Activism: A Contagous Occupation


Catching this bug of helping patients with cancer just may be the healthiest thing you can do.

I have never discussed politics with friends or family, even if asked. There are several reasons for this. I don’t much like “conflict” (I would make a lousy politician), and I’m easily wearied by an excess of opinions and judgements.

It’s not that I don’t care, it’s just that everybody sees life through their own set of lenses, and none of us have the same prescription.

All of that changed the moment I was diagnosed with male breast cancer.

The very day I underwent mastectomy surgery on my left breast, I looked closely at what might be the rest of my time on Earth and saw some very empty scenes. I quickly understood how, from that point on, the choices in my life would no longer be entirely my own. Cancer had changed everything, and this was at once both a scary and eye-opening realization.

Instinctively, I wanted to run from my cancer, not discuss it with friends or family, and avoid the discomfort it presented. But that thought was gone even before the stitches in my chest had dissolved, and suddenly I was forced to take an active role in my own recovery. I was motivated to get involved, make some noise and share my thoughts and fears with others, though it was contrary to my basic nature.

And as I reached out to other breast cancer survivors, both men and women, I found that we are all riding that same wave of uncertainty. I think that is the source and the primary reason for the anxiety, fear and confusion we sometimes feel.

But most importantly, I began to understand that when we help others, we help ourselves. When we start to support fellow survivors, encouraging them to endure and fight and persevere, we begin to really believe it, too.

And it seems that there’s no turning back. It’s infectious. It’s contagious.

I trust in the power of collective positive thought, and what I’m suggesting is a simple remedy for the disillusionment and suffering that involves paying forward whatever we can spare on any given day. Those feelings of isolation and despair that follow us in the days after our cancer diagnosis are to be expected. And we’re all on a different healing timetable and in varying stages of our recovery. But when the time is right, our active participation in the cancer cooperative may be just the thing to inspire ourselves, while supporting others.

There are countless ways to actively support others with cancer. Write about it. Talk about it. Join a support group. Volunteer in your hospital. Donate to a cancer cause. Invite a survivor to a Laughter Yoga class. Drive someone to their mammogram or chemotherapy session.

The secret to activism is to just “do,” no matter how small an effort. Your involvement will expand and grow in ways you may never see, but you can be sure that your efforts will find their way to someone special--and that someone just may be you.

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