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.
Breast cancer threatens to silence the voices of those touched by it but if we choose to speak out, we will be heard.
Some voices affected by breast cancer speak a little more loudly than others. And sometimes, the reason is because those voices have a larger platform than others. Voices like well-known celebrities gain a little more notoriety and attention than those of us without that type of popularity, but the truth of the matter is, all voices touched by breast cancer matter.
The voices of breast cancer can be male or female, young or old. The voices of breast cancer can be of any nationality, any race, any religion. No matter the specifics behind the voice, what it has to say needs to be heard.
Pick up any magazine and you're likely to find a story about breast cancer from a well-known TV or movie personality. Some have been shared by prominent women in our society today, women like Olivia Newton-John, Amy Robach and Joan Lunden. And for some reason, we seem to pay a little more attention to their stories reading with great attention to detail. We feel privileged to be let into their lives, if only for a few moments.
Performing an internet search using the words “celebrity” and “breast cancer” will bring up story after story for our perusal. And while I'm thankful for the publicity and notoriety these achieve through sharing their stories, breast cancer isn't a tool any of us would choose to have lift us toward stardom.
There are voices behind breast cancer that may only speak to family members and friends. In hushed tones, those shaky voices struggle to find words that express feelings, hopes and dreams. At times, the voices choose to remain silent, refraining from complaining or expressing physical discomfort. Instead, those brave voices accept the hand dealt and do their best to accept it.
Some voices with breast cancer are snuffed out too quickly never getting a chance to speak, but even the unspoken words matter.
Behind every voice is a life — a life that wasn't expecting to be interrupted by cancer's rudeness.
Perhaps all the words have already been spoken and there are no more available to describe the devastation that accompanies cancer. But even if there are no new words to use, the old ones suffice. Words like, "I can't believe it." "I wasn't expecting it." "This can't be happening." "Why me?" "I'm not ready to die."
There's a large banner stretched along some fencing near our home that says, "All lives matter." The owner of that property must have been touched by the Black Lives Matter campaign that was going on earlier last year. Each time I see it, I can't help but think about the many lives touched by any form of cancer but in particular, breast cancer.
The voices behind breast cancer have much to say. Listen closely, and you'll hear fear tempered with courage. Not all voices of those with cancer feel a need to be heard but sometimes, it helps to know there's a listening ear just in case there's something to say.
All lives matter. All voices matter. Cancer is no respecter of persons. If you or someone you know have been affected by breast cancer, it's important to take time to share a little of your story. Your voice can tell your story your way, and in so doing, you'll help others understand what it's really like to experience a life changing disease.
Before I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I'd heard stories from friends of friends. Most of those stories were from someone who knew someone who'd been affected by cancer. The stories were shared in bits and pieces and sometimes, not very accurately. These whispered accounts caused me to become very fearful and dread the possibility of ever facing my own battle with cancer. No matter how I hoped and wished I'd never have a tale to tell of my own, I do. And now, I've chosen to use my voice to help others understand that a diagnosis of breast cancer doesn't necessarily equal instant death.
If those touched by cancer continue sharing their own personal accounts, maybe we can help disarm the uncertainty that comes with cancer one voice at a time. It's your choice. If you have something to say, say it. Your voice matters.