Wednesday, February 28, 2007

In Real Life

I am back from the boob conference. It was good. Can't say I learned a ton of new stuff, but oh, well. I have done more research than the average bear. 850 breast cancer survivors under 40. That part was cool. I also learned that Washington D.C. shuts down if there's an inch of snow. Seriously, they told me it would be 2 hours to get a cab. You kidding me? I digress...

So, I'm fairly active on a few message boards. Some having to do with cancer, some not. It isn't uncommon to see the phrase "IRL" - in real life. Not to be confused with "url," as in a website. On the Young Survival Coalition board, you can read frequent comments on how "irl, people don't get it." "irl, i can't talk to my friend/husband/mom/dog" Okay, maybe I can, but you get the idea. Before this conference, about 40 of us discussed how excited we were to meet each other IRL. Women we only knew through signature pictures and diagnosis statistics. Women we only knew through written text: where humor, sarcasm and truth are deeply intertwined.

Off I went to the conference. And I recognized some of these women immediately. Some had different hair than in their pictures (myself included) but I recognized their smiles. Or their eyes. When you don't have hair, your eyes become bigger. Or at least they look bigger. Even though I don't post all the time, I immediately felt a part of this "family." We shared stories, jokes, rants. We laughed and made inappropriate comments at the sex toy party. We were from all over the country. Some were shy. Others, uh-hem, were not. We were single, married, gay, straight. IRL, one would argue if we would be friends, or even run into each other. But this isn't real life. It's cancer life. And in the world of the "big C," once you're in, you're in.

What did I learn? I learned that women are beautiful no matter if they have boobs or hair. I learned that a good laugh can make you feel worlds better. I learned that there are amazing, strong awesome women who have this disease. And they don't deserve it. I learned the value of a community and unconditional support. In spite of hot flashes and side effects and our own problems, there are women willing to reach out and help others. Give what is left of themselves. Where else can you get that many women together and not have it be a cat fest? Maybe cuz most of us have no hormones left.

I am in awe of these women. Stage IVs who refuse to give up. Women just diagnosed who have to go through all that shit. Shit that I'm so glad to done with. Although we all travelled back to our homes, our families, our lives - I now have a bit more of an insight to these women. When they offer advice, I will think of their presence. Or their hug. Or the fact that one went out on a date with a dwarf. Most importantly, I will think that I am proud to be a part of them, IRL or otherwise. I am honored to consider myself a member of this fucked up sorority.

Here's a group picture of women from the YSC board. Can you find me? It's like "Where's Waldo?"


Anonymous said...

What a fabulous-looking group of women! Personally, I believe a boa is the perfect accessory for any occasion. Can't wait to hear more about the conference - AJ

Jennifer said...

I was just thinking that this was a sorority no one deserves to join but I'm glad to have. . .

Who went out with a dwarf and how did I miss that?