Thursday, March 31, 2011

I walk the Walk, but can I talk the talk?

I have a confession to make. I know very little about breast cancer.

First, this especially pitiful considering I took an entire class in college that focused strictly on breast cancer.

Tangent: Let me take this moment to apologize to my professor…who is a survivor. I am a horrible student of biology (a horrible student in general really, but let’s not go there), I have a terrible memory (probably why I’m a bad student?), and she deserved better than my forgetful butt in her class. But taking her class was one of my very early steps along my road to the 3-Day, and for that, I am forever grateful.

Second, as a 3-Day walker, I think that I should know better. And know more. I’m honestly embarrassed to admit that I don’t know anything beyond the “1 in 8 women will be diagnosed” statistic.

Here’s what’s been happening to make me go down this path. I work with a wonderful woman, Nancy, who has donated to my walks each and every year. On Monday, Nancy stopped at my desk and said, “Thank you for walking. One of my good friends just learned that she has breast cancer and I know that the work you do will save her life.” And then Nancy and I talked a bit about her friend…and this is where I think I may have failed Nancy. Because as she started talking about her friend’s diagnosis and what she was going through, I found myself faking my way through the conversation. Not because I didn’t want to have it, but because I didn’t understand the terms that Nancy was using.

Nancy said, “She is between stages 2 and 3.”  
And I thought, “Well is it 2 or 3? Can it be both? What do the stages really mean, anyway?”

Nancy said, “She saw the surgeon, and she’s going to have 18 weeks of chemotherapy, then the surgery, and then probably radiation. Why are they doing it in that order?”
I thought, “I have no idea.”

Nancy is literally coming to me for answers and I don’t have any. She knows I’m not a doctor…she’s not expecting me to spew information on research and facts and drugs. But she knows I’m a Walker, and so she expects that I should be able to talk to her about these basic things. And I don’t think it’s an unreasonable expectation.

Thankfully I have some very knowledgeable friends on twitter who were able to come to my rescue (thanks @kscincotta!) and now Nancy is feeling better. But I’m feeling pretty darn bad. I want to know more!

So, here's what I propose to do. I am going to try my hand at being a student again. I'm not going to register for any classes, but when I hear a story on the radio I'm going to go online and read more about it. When I get the Komen newsletters, I'm going to read all the stories. If I don't understand a word, I'll Google it, or I'll call on my Twitter friends to help me out again. And then I'll share with you what I learn.

I'm done being ashamed because I don't know it all. And I am going to stop knowing nothing. In this fight against breast cancer, knowledge is power. It's time to be powerful.

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