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.
Although the wounds inflicted by cancer may not always be externally visible, they are there. Our society is full of those scarred for life, they are cancer's walking wounded.
I live in a city obsessed with zombies. No kidding! Since the inception of the popular television show, “The Walking Dead,” our town has become a mecca for those who don't mind the gory sights and sounds of the undead. The show is often filmed in my hometown, and residents will frequently join in the fun. The actors and actresses for the TV series love being covered in theatrical makeup, which usually consists of a lot of fake blood and loose, hanging skin. Though their appearance can be quite frightening, most residents here have learned to accept and even embrace these scary creatures.
During the day, it's not unusual to see zombies sitting at lunch counters conversing with a few of the locals, but in the evenings, watching the "dead" performing normal activities such as crossing a street can catch the unsuspecting town visitor off guard.
The makeup artists who perform their magic on regular, everyday people are gifted. Their ability to transform the living into the undead is astounding. When seen from a distance, the reality of the zombie wounds is outstanding but when viewed up close, sometimes is hard to distinguish from real life trauma.
I enjoy living in a town where creativity is embraced. Although I don't personally enjoy the popular television show, I have no issue with those who do. But sometimes, when I see an actor dressed in zombie garb, I'm reminded that all wounds aren't easily visible. Take the wounds inflicted by cancer, for instance. Those wounds may or may not be visible. It isn't hard to imagine that I walk daily among cancer's walking wounded.
The majority of men and women affected by cancer don't openly display their scars, in fact, most of them do their best to conceal them. Losing one's hair, breasts, testicles or other body parts to cancer isn't something we want the world to ogle over. And, although cancer does often decimate a body, what about the damage it does to wound a person's self-esteem. Those wounds aren't visible, but they are just as bad as, or worse than, the physical injuries.
Our society is full of cancer's walking wounded. Though you may not be able to distinguish them as easily as from a field full of walking zombies, they are all around you. So many men, women and children have been touched by cancer that it's scary. And it's even scarier than any actor walking around with outstretched arms, a blank stare, and loose, bloody skin hanging from his bones.
What can we do to really see and understand cancer's walking wounded? How can we be more compassionate and kind toward them? Is it easier for us to accept the things we can see and more difficult to understand the things we can't see? These are questions I hope to address in this article.
In order to see and understand cancer's walking wounded, it's important to realize cancer is no respecter of persons. Any one, any age, any sex, can get cancer at any time and since we don't know exactly what causes cancer, we have no idea when or if it may strike. That's a scary thought. But even with the knowledge that anyone can get cancer, we must learn to see with our heart. In this way, we can learn to become more compassionate and kind toward cancer's walking wounded. When we can picture ourselves in the role of cancer victim, we can understand what cancer feels like and how we might react or like to be treated. When we are unable to do this, we fail to embrace or accept those around us who may be struggling with the aftermath of cancer's power.
I've learned to see the zombies in our city as the gruesome depictions of fantasy they are. In a strange way, I've learned to enjoy seeing them and have even caught myself imitating them on rare occasion. It's easy to do that because I can actually see them in their garb and my mind can wrap around this artistic expression without much effort. But I've had to train my eyes to see cancer's walking wounded. Since I'm a breast cancer survivor, I know what cancer looks like and it's a little easier for me to spot than it would be for someone untouched by the disease. I've worked hard to make myself more sensitive and now, find myself looking for the walking wounded. I want to reach out and love on them.
The next time you're in a crowd of people, scan the group. See if you can spot those walking wounded among you. Learn to see through caring and compassionate eyes. As you look, I'm sure you'll spot one or two.
If you're a Walking Dead fan, you'd love our city. Not a day goes by that we don't have a zombie sighting. Even when the show isn't filming, droves of fans visit the area in zombie attire and makeup.
I hope you'll envision a world without cancer's walking wounded. Hopefully, one day, we'll be able to forget the effects of cancer, but until that day, let's all try to be a little more kind, a little more compassionate, and a little more accepting of those walking wounded among us.