By Zoe Christopher, Information and Resources Liaison
I came to BCAction shortly after a friend was diagnosed – and she had a bilateral mastectomy in her early 40s. Another friend and fellow photographer, Debi, was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer. She was gone four months later, leaving her beautiful son without a mother. Six years ago another dear friend was diagnosed – twice – and we just celebrated her 80th birthday. This disease is complex, tricky, and insidious – it shows up in my dreams as a serpentine character, fanged and evil. But I also know that it doesn’t have to be this way.
I spent years working in crisis intervention with adolescents, families, individuals and their partners. But breast cancer is in a field all its own: I feel like we’re riding a rollercoaster of shock, hope, loss, sorrow, and victory. As the Resource Liaison at Breast Cancer Action, I can wade through anger, resignation, and surrender to acceptance, determination, and triumph in a single afternoon. And I offer the people who contact us what they won’t get anywhere else: unbiased information presented in an understandable way so that they can make health decisions that are best for them.
Every day I witness women grappling with this disease with everything they’ve got and in all the ways it can be met. I have learned so much from them about living and loving fully, about the resilience of the human spirit, about holding on and letting go and holding on again, and about leaving this earthly place with dignity and grace. I cherish all they share with me on this journey.
And when people can turn their pain, confusion, and anger into activism, I am particularly proud of the work we do at Breast Cancer Action. Because in these shared experiences lies the potential for the systemic changes that we need to address and end the breast cancer epidemic. And in the conversations I have every day, it’s clear to me that we can and must do better.
As we say goodbye to 2019, I want to remember the people I’ve lost to this disease. I want to remember their contributions, their love, and their triumphs. And I want to honor those friends and family members who join us in educating and advocating for a world not threatened by breast cancer, those who continue to share their lives with me, those who remind me of what’s possible, and those who are at the heart of this work we do every day.
There is strength and promise in our solidarity.