Thursday, October 1, 2009

Hello Again, Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Well, it's official.

It's October.

Everywhere I go nowadays, I'm inundated with pink ribbons and pink food packages. How I react to all of this pink stuff depends on the mood I'm in. Sometimes I have flashbacks of the harsh treatments I endured, the double mastectomy with reconstruction, and also the kind doctors who crossed my path. 

Other times I get annoyed. 

Still other times I cry -- maybe because I'm feeling sorry for myself, feeling overwhelmed, feeling sorry for my sorry body, the result of numerous invasive treatments and surgeries. And I often reflect on my young friends who died from the disease, and this is the catalyst to the pity party called Survivor's Guilt. 
But mostly, I feel lucky. I'm fortunate to be witnessing such a huge outpouring of support for a cause that is so near and dear to my heart.


While I'd like to take all the credit for beating cancer, I know that my survival was partly due to luck. I have deep, honest gratitude each day. 

Because I lived. 

And I want to be an example of how to live a wonderful life after cancer. While my being at the other end of a cancer help line would be a huge mistake (I'm too fragile to do this), I am more committed than ever to be a voice of medical advocacy and to share my story with others. I use the written and spoken word to help others, which reminds me that it was a good thing I majored in English in college.

October is the month where I find myself the busiest in the writing and speaking circuit. A year ago, last October, I participated in a number of events, including a Borders book reading and signing of the Voices of Breast Cancer anthology, in which I published an essay. I also attended a fund-raiser, that raised some serious money to help disadvantaged and/or underinsured women get free mammograms. I was on a cable TV show as a guest, and I was one of many survivors honored at an event at my hospital.

Last year's fund-raiser was magnificent. While I watched attendees bidding on items and vacations I could not afford, my heart welled with joy. These generous people, in my mind, became ambassadors for this cause. Every time a bidding card went up to up the ante, gratitude filled me up, as I thought about how so many lives would change for the better. I was so grateful, I was rendered speechless.

This year, on Oct. 3, I'm attending the same gala and am sure I'll be equally choked up at the kindness and giving nature of others. Later in the month, I will be sharing my story in a public forum of breast cancer survivors. I am honored for the opportunity to do so. I don't think my story is any more special than those of the other survivors, but I'm hoping they are inspired by my story and are willing to share theirs.

That's how it is, really. By opening up and telling our stories, we help others and form a supportive community. 

Hello again, October. I am ready. 

And this year, once again, October is ready for me.

Beth L. Gainer is a professional writer and has published numerous academic and magazine articles, as well as an essay on her breast cancer experience in the anthology Voices of Breast Cancer by LaChance Publishing. She writes about a potpourri of topics, including motherhood and her Chinese adoption experience at, and her cat Hemi blogs at Beth teaches writing and literature at Robert Morris University in the Chicago area. She has a guest posting on The World's Strongest Librarian at

She can be contacted at and


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