This article was originally published on Medium. Re-published with permission from the author.
They swarmed towards me and then past me, a pink vortex of t-shirts, feather boas and every tacky accessory imaginable. And characters: a pink-clad Minnie Mouse posing for selfies, a school cheerleader mascot with fuchsia pompoms.
I had forgotten about the breast cancer walk, despite the numerous signs plastered on trees and poles in the neighborhood, daily emails, Facebook notifications, and just the month we were in — October, aka breast cancer awareness month.
I’ve been aware of breast cancer for over 6 years. I’ve had a diner menu of treatment, from chemo to immunotherapy, endocrine therapy and hormone therapy, ablation and surgeries, trials and more chemo. But I’ve never felt so distant from the walkers and their signs.
Ironically, it’s the support of those participants, “runners for the cure,” donations to the cause, which is likely why I have been alive this long, able to participate in trials for new, “promising” medications. In the beginning, I was walking alongside them, donning the pink Survivor sweatshirt — though I was still battling the disease — feeling the solidarity, helping raise money. I always thought the further in I’d get, the more connections I’d form, the more awareness I’d spread, the more money I’d raise. Instead, I’d never felt so distant, so isolated, knowing that there’s no cure, little point in long term plans for me, hope that turns stale with every failed treatment.
I’d spent so much time trying to set up Life Without Me. Something would work, then something wouldn’t, and it’s back to square one. Or, more like five steps forward and six steps back. Just when I think life is proceeding with me, and those close to me are used to this idea as well, the reminder that my stage has no cure rings loud and clear. The unpredictability, the uncertainty shrouds me in ambivalence.
And I’m fully aware that this is why we need the pink, to get the green and raise awareness to find a cure. Only I’ve been too disenchanted by ground zero, by the cancer that takes more than just a physical toll.
I run against the crowd running for those avoiding my predicament. They pass me by without knowing that I am exactly what their cause is trying to prevent. I run invisible to pink ribbons, pink strollers and Minnie Mouse, because I’m what they fear: the scary monster reaching beyond Halloween, the real October. When November comes around, I’ll still have cancer.
But I’ll be around, for now.
About Liya & Alexander: Together for over 20 years, Liya and Alexander have two beautiful children together. Liya lived over 8 years with Metastatic Breast Cancer. 8 years during which she maintained her life and balanced work and family life. She used art and writing as an escape, and we are honored that her husband has shared her stories (and his art) with us. We hope this Life Beyond Breast Cancer tribute is an inspiration to other couples living with this disease.