Terry Arnold was diagnosed with a right inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) in August 2007 and a left contralateral tumor soon after. She had weeks of chemotherapy, radiation treatment and eventually a double mastectomy. She completed treatment in June 2008 and has been an IBC ambassador and advocate since.
I recently received this brief message and a link to a "pink" organization from an acquaintance: "Thought you'd like to see this in case you are affiliated."
Are you affiliated? A song floated through my tired brain. The question wove around and aligned itself with the Jimi Hendrix song, "Are You Experienced?'
Are you affiliated? I went to visit a woman I know named Cindy, a 49-year-old mother of Ian, 11, and Jamie, 8. Cindy was in her last day of home hospice, after an 18-month, downhill battle against inflammatory breast cancer.
Are you affiliated? The older son came into Cindy's bedroom, unaware he wouldn't see his mom awake again. He absentmindedly leaned into me and I, with the absentminded habit of a mom of five, drew him near. He hugged me, looked up and said aloud, "I don't know you, but I love you."
Are you affiliated? When the family couldn't handle what was happening, I was the one wiping the bile off of Cindy's face; the vomiting was so bad. Finally, the emergency team came.
Are you affiliated? And when the ambulance doors closed in front of her house, I was the only one on the sidewalk to smile and tell her it would soon be OK.
My opposite reaction
Am I affiliated? I don't know how to address that message from my acquaintance, partly because his comment was not a question seeking an answer. It felt like more of a judgment or a chastisement.
I'm sure it was an oddity that I received that message just prior to walking into Cindy's home. And it was totally random on the part of my acquaintance, not thinking about the impact it might have on me and my day.
However, every action causes an equal and opposite reaction, and I did have a reaction to his message. Affiliated? Well, I wish I had an answer as short as the original message he sent.
I have held the hands of many women who are dying from IBC, the rarest of the breast cancers, because, you see, I have it, too.
No one asked me
And whether or not you like whatever "pink" organization is out there, I'm not in charge of the breast cancer world.
Just because I have the most fatal form of breast cancer does not make me responsible for all things cancer, or a cancer expert.
No one asked me, "Are you ready to get your butt kicked by cancer?"
No one from a major pink organization has called to ask me how they should spend its money.
I am not in charge. But what I am in charge of is how I spend my time, show my love and give my compassion to persons in need.
Are you affiliated? The line from that Hendrix song again came to me, "Are you experienced? Ah! Have you ever been experienced?
Well, I have.
Note: Hendrix reportedly said the message in "Are You Experienced?" is to let go of the daily hardships of life and take a moment to relax and look at your life. The song tells us to find peace within ourselves, "not necessarily stoned, but beautiful." It's also reported that the song is about love.