This entry was written by Julie Clark:
I arrived in Philadelphia for the annual Living Beyond Breast Cancer fall conference and it was a beautiful evening. Warm, by November standards. I have the night to myself and the capitol building is grand and pale and people crowd the streets. Several men in military uniform move along the sidewalk, soldiers on leave, perhaps, and I thank them for their service. They are brave.
In some ways, they are brave like the women who filled the conference on Saturday morning. Like us, they feel a kindred spirit – an understanding that is natural to those who face battle. They are thrown together, strangers from big cities and small towns, and yet they share intimate stories and tell jokes. Sometimes they cry. They are given heavy artillery that could, and will, kill. They wear the uniform of a special unit.
At the conference, our uniforms are different. They are pink and soft. We wear scarves instead of caps, and our badges are colored necklaces that mark our rank: white for one year of survival, pink for ten. Green is for those of us who have metastatic disease. Some of us have lost parts of our bodies, and some of us live with post-traumatic stress disorder. The room hums with sisterhood and courage and power and strength as we gather in groups for combat.
But the soldiers on the street are on leave. They volunteered for battle, but we in this room found ourselves drafted into a war we did not choose and cannot leave. When a doctor told me I had cancer I felt more like the victim of a suicide bomber than a soldier – the suddenness and the unexpectedness of this news found me completely unprepared. An enemy had attacked, and I was in my underwear.
There aren’t words for the shared experience of this, but here, in this room, we all feel it. As an only child I had not known the depth of sisterhood, but I feel it now. My sisters are of different ages and races and religions, old enough to be my mothers and young enough to be my daughters. We are united in this battle and, in so many ways, we are proud.
We are proud because we are strong. It is palpable, the strength in this room. We fight for ourselves and our families and our future – we fight for our faith. We pray that we will see this war end, and that those who do not fight beside us will never have to. And to my sister soldiers, to all of them, I say this: Thank you for your service.
Julie Aigner Clark is the author of the picture book You Are the Best Medicine, which helps empower children to feel supportive during the cancer treatment of a loved one. Order your copy today!