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October: I Just Want to Cry – A Cancer Survivor’s View

As a breast cancer survivor, I’m not sure whether I love October or fear it. Seeing the spectrum of pink colors everywhere can be overwhelming. It’s a constant reminder that I’m sick. And yes, I know that thousands of women and men are afflicted with this disease yearly, so the pink promotion isn’t about me being ill. But sometimes, I just get inside my head. My thoughts go to the scary places that we all want to push away. And sometimes, I just want to cry.

Other times, I feel a tremendous amount of guilt. I watch the courageous stories on TV, skim magazine covers plastered with the bald and beautiful and think, “Wow, I am lucky.” And then the conversation in my head continues. In my mind, I’m walking through the hospital door to treatment where I feel the same sentiment: guilt. Guilty for being one of the few with hair, though I did lose it 10 years ago. Guilty that I look healthy, trim and tan, so can hide that I’m sick. And guilty for even thinking about this stuff, because I should be enjoying each moment I have.

Other times, the pink brings out a power within me. As a “survivor,” I am strong and so are all the others. We’re brave and courageous for having to deal with the uncertainties, as well as the physical and emotional pains, while also dealing with the logistics of treatments. Even through it all, we giggle, sing, dance and party. Still, sometimes, I just want to cry.

Please know, I’m eternally grateful to all the businesses, media companies and individuals who paint the town pink in an effort to educate, prevent and raise money to cure breast cancer. I’ve seen first hand, how early detection and new treatments can improve ones quality of life. But sometimes, I just want to cry.

I want to cry because I’m so sad, angry, hurt, confused that so many people have to deal with cancer. And that still, there is no cure.

I want to cry because for every happy story I see, I realize there are many stories that don’t end happily. I cry for them and cry for me – wondering if I will be one of them.

I want to cry because I’ve been blessed. For some reason, I have breast cancer, skin cancer and metastatic (breast cancer) disease, yet I’m still here, living everyday with the ones I love.

I want to cry because even through these cancers, I still sometimes forget to live in the moment and appreciate all I have.

Keep in mind, I also cry when I’m happy. And the truth is, despite all the hard times that come with cancer and the constant reminder that is October, I’m happy. I’m happy that Breast Cancer Awareness Month educates men, women and children the importance of breast self exams for early detection. I’m happy that many women are now aware of the value of mammograms and discussing breast cancer with their doctors. I’m happy that so many organizations donate their time, money and resources to help families struggling with this illness. And I’m happy that funds are being raised to find a cure for breast cancer.

So while the whole world is painting the town pink for Breast Health Awareness month, do join in and donate, attend fundraisers, visit your doctor and learn how to do a breast self-exam. But also, go home and tell your best friend, spouse, child or pet how much you love them. Remember pink also equals love. I’ve found that in all the lessons I’ve learned about cancer, I’ve felt my best when I embrace all the love around me.

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Thoughts on October from a Breast Cancer Survivor

This post was first published in 2014 on Pretty Wellness and recently featured on The Huffington Post.

 

58 Comments

  1. Thank you for this beautiful essay, Caryn.

  2. Sarah Torff

    Caryn your message is so heartfelt. I think there is a tendency to commercialize and “pink” up everything – even dish detergent – which cheapens the depth of uncertainty, loss and hope that are the territory of all cancer patients and their families. As of now I am the only female in my immediate family without breast ca. My 2nd younger sister was diagnosed in May – stage 3. Mom was diagnosed in 1987.

    Let’s face it – this diagnosis sucks. Your willingness to share your story with such eloquence means a lot to many of us.

    Thanks and love and prayers. Sarah

    • Caryn Sullivan

      Sarah – I hope that your sister is doing ok and appreciate you reaching out. I’m actually ok with the commercializing of it all…as long as some good comes out of it. I laugh, that my 28 year old husband (at the time) was the one who told me to get one of those “mammogram things.” He knew, through all the awareness campaigns in the 1990s – Yoplait, Komen, etc – that a lump was bad and that I should get a mammogram. It saved my life and I’m sure it has for others. I do think there needs to be a heightened focus on money directly for better treatments and cure, though. Thanks for the kind words, thoughts and prayers.

  3. Baby, I’m thinking about you every step of the way……I read, I watch, I listen and I feel……You keep journaling the truth….your thoughts, your feelings….your words are not only cathartic but inspiring….Those of us that have spent our lives (19) years raising funds for Cancer research need to hear your words…..Thank you for sharing…..I am humbled by your sincere approach to life and the courage you have living it daily ….You are blessed…..I pray for you often….sending tons of hugs and kisses my darling….. :) Roseann

    • Caryn Sullivan

      Roseann – Wow, thank you for such a deep compliment. It means so much. I need the love, prayers and good thoughts and also the great friends from many paths in my life. Thank you for always keeping me in mind and for being there both 10-years ago and today. xoxo

    • Caryn Sullivan

      Roseann – Thank you for the kind word and reminder that I need to keep writing. It’s good for me and hopefully for others to see that there are real people and genuine stories behind all the “cancer research” initiatives. I’m honored that you have always been a mentor/big sister to me. Knowing your efforts have been monumental for the Randy Shaver Cancer Research and Community Fund, I’m so touched that you even think I’m inspirational. Thanks. xoxo

  4. Caryn – What a beautiful piece of writing! And of course, it made me cry. I guess it’s in the genes, but I also cry happy tears and sad tears, all the time. Your essay makes me want to see you very soon, wearing my adorable new hot pink dress, for dinner or tea or a walk on the beach or all of the above. xoxoxooxo

    • Caryn Sullivan

      Thanks for stopping by the blog and commenting. I love it. I also would love to see you in a bright pink dress. I actually can envision Cecile Fine in those golden oldie photos, though they were black and white, wearing a flow-y dress probably a bold, bright color, too. xoxo

  5. Katie Reppucci

    You amaze and inspire me. Thinking of you! Katie

  6. Christine deSimas

    Sending lots of love your way Caryn.

  7. Debbie Goldstein

    Caryn: What a gorgeous and heartfelt article, Caryn. I didn’t realize you have been sick and though I haven’t seen you in awhile I am here if you need anything or if there is anything I can do for you! Sending lots of good thoughts, prayers, hugs and love your way. xoxox

    • Caryn Sullivan

      Deb – Thanks for the kind words. I’m glad you enjoyed the post and the blog. I appreciate the good thoughts, prayers, hugs and love. xoxo

  8. So beautiful! I just want to give you a (((Big Hug))). Thank you for sharing your view!

    • Caryn Sullivan

      Thanks for the virtual hug, Sarah…right back at ‘cha.

  9. Kim Sage

    Caryn,
    What a touching message….I read it late last night and wanted to come give you a hug, but I figured you & Kevin would not want to see me at midnight :)!! Your courage, honesty and overall beauty is truly amazing. I love reading everything you post. See you soon.

    • Caryn Sullivan

      Thanks for stopping by Kim. I’m glad you enjoy the blog and let me know if there are topics you want us to cover. xoxo

  10. You inspire me. I can’t imagine dealing with what you are…and you do it with such grace. I am touched to read your story…

    • Caryn Sullivan

      Thanks Kristen. This post was a hard one to write, arguably even more difficult than some of the other ones that touched upon my cancer. It started emotional for me from the beginning, so I kept changing it until it felt right. I guess that’s the writing process, right? Thanks for the support always and the kind words.

  11. My dear friend. I loved this post. I found myself really thinking about the crying and reminded me of the good that can come from it. Crying often starts the renewal process that leads us to hope and hope to action and action to solutions. And I wanted to comment on “pink washing” too. While I know that some people get angry by the pink washing, I’m for it. To me, if the yogurt I buy or the toilet paper I buy or the coffee I buy help give money to find a cure or support those who are fighting the battle, good. Because it’s going to take individuals and business to fund the research we need to find a cure. Until then, know that I am praying for you and all who are fighting. I’m hopeful that care (and crying sometimes) and hugs (and punching a pillow sometimes) and loving with all you have (and maybe eating some ice cream) will be the medicine that will get us all through it all. With love. XOXO

    • Caryn Sullivan

      Michele – Thanks for the outpouring of love as well as the wise information about the business world and charitable efforts. I totally agree with you. While I wish everyone would donate directly to fund cure research, that isn’t realistic. I credit Yoplait and other companies who promoted breast cancer pink initiatives for educating my 28-year old husband that a lump was bad. He’s the one who told me to get “one of those mammogram things.” If it wasn’t for awareness campaigns, a lot of people wouldn’t even know the basics about breast health. I do still wish, pray and punch exercise bags, too, in the hopes of a cure or at least more treatments so we can all live and thrive with cancer. xoxo

  12. Thank you for sharing this. I often wonder what people with cancer actually think of the month of October. I personally think it’s become too commercialized and it’s also attracted people with the wrong intentions. Perhaps if they read posts like this they would change their minds.

    • Caryn Sullivan

      Serena – Thanks for the kind words about the post. There is a lot of info in the media now about “pink washing.” I like what Michele from Neat Little Nest, says below: “While I know that some people get angry by the pink washing, I’m for it. To me, if the yogurt I buy or the toilet paper I buy or the coffee I buy help give money to find a cure or support those who are fighting the battle, good. Because it’s going to take individuals and business to fund the research we need to find a cure.” I think she sums it up well…and so hopefully even the companies/individuals who aren’t as forthcoming as we’d like, hopefully their pink products are a reminder to one person/one girl to do a breast self exam, get a mammogram, etc. Best wishes and thanks for stopping by.

  13. I cannot even begin to understand what you must be feeling, but still truly can’t thank you enough for trying to convey it here with us. Sending some virtual hugs and good thoughts your way now.
    Janine Huldie recently posted…Apples Galore with Perfect Pie Recipe

    • Thanks Janine. What’s interesting is that I still feel like little ‘ol me. I’ve gotten used to my storied life. While I do from time to time feel all the emotions that go along with cancer, I try to only let it be a small part of my life. Sometimes it works and other times it doesn’t…but I try. Thanks again for the kind words and virtual hugs. xoxo

  14. Oh Caryn… this was simply beautiful. Before i got to the end, I was thinking – you should submit this to The Huffington Post – and then I saw at the end that you did publish it there. (Congratulations by the way).

    I wish I could give you a big hug. Thank you so much for sharing your perspective. I’ll be sharing this as well.
    xoxo
    Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom recently posted…Moms Need PD Days, Too! FREE Mom Conference!

    • Thanks for the big virtual hug. Isn’t it funny how we get to know each other from our writings and feel like we’re long lost friends. I appreciate the kind words and the support (both blogging support and friendship.) Have a great rest of your week.

  15. You are beyond a trooper and inspiration and you should never ever ever forget that. Sure we all have crappy days and take things for granted some times, but over all, you do in fact know how lucky you are – so never ever feel guilty!
    GiGi Eats recently posted…A Pie That Will Make You Cream

    • It’s wild how perspective can change so easily, when we are faced with life altering situations. There’s a clarity that sometimes fogs a little as time passes. Thanks for the kind words and pep talk. xoxo

  16. Your honesty is amazing. I have two friends that are fighting now and I’ve never heard this perspective. You are so brave to share and I’m glad I found YOUR blog!
    Jill
    Jill recently posted…Yes, I make my 5-year-old make his own lunch

  17. I’m crying now! What a beautiful and courageous woman you are. Thank you for sharing this my friend! Totally sharing your inspiring post.
    Jen recently posted…What I Learned The Month I Went Without A Cellphone

    • Thanks Jen. It was hard and easy to write…I cried while writing it (go figure), but it also was very cathartic. It was exactly what I was thinking. Thanks for sharing my story. Have a great rest of the week.

  18. This tugged at my heart. What a beautiful post. Thank you so much for sharing.
    Amber Myers recently posted…A Five Nights At Freddy’s Halloween Costume

  19. I don’t like this month as well because one of my friends just recently passed away due to breast cancer. Thank you for sharing your story, strength and most of all your courage. You just became the light for those who are still battling this!
    Tamika recently posted…Green Juice For The Rest of Us

  20. You are so inspirational, I have a very close family member that just went through cancer.

  21. Beautiful, inspiring post. Sending lots of love and hugs on your way.

  22. I think it’s ok to cry. You have made it through a lot, and it can leave you with a maelstrom of emotions. Thank you for sharing this with us!
    .

  23. This made me cry. Very heart touching story. Im so speechless. You will be in my prayers Caryn.

  24. Omg this is so beautiful, I want to cry! Inspiring and amazing post, thanks for sharing!
    Melanie Smith recently posted…Salted Caramel Apple Hand Pies

  25. I cant imagine fighting cancer, My grandparents both fought cancer.
    Teresa Kunberger recently posted…Breastfeeding With Infinity Nursing Scarf.

  26. My heart shrunk while reading this. You’re a beautiful, empowered woman and you deserve the best this world can give you. Sending you good thoughts!

  27. A lovely post, Cary, I can’t imagine what you must be think or feel. You are one brave lady and I can totally understand how October cab be bittersweet.

  28. I can only imagine the array of emotions during this month. I personally have never had it but watched others in my family struggle with it. So tough.

  29. Caryn, your post is very beautiful and touching. I cannot even imagine what you are feeling or the experiences you have had. I think your article brings great awareness to breast cancer and also encourages other who are going through this or have a family member who has cancer. I have a friend who passed away this past week from lung cancer. I had no idea she was sick until the last few months of her life. You are so right that it is important to show and tell our family and friends how much we love them. I never got the chance to tell my friend goodbye. I wish I would have been able to give her a hug and tell her how much she meant to me. Thank you for sharing your story. I hope it encourages others to love, love, LOVE!!! xoxo

  30. *Correction: my friend passed away this past Spring, not week.
    Jennifer recently posted…Fall in Love with Bruegger’s Bagels New Fall Menu!

  31. Ana Sanchez

    This is beautifully written. I lost both of my grandparents to cancer, I almost lost my mother from it and worried I will some day have it too.

  32. I wish I could give you a big hug right now, Caryn. I feel your pain and frustration, and yet you stay strong! I can relate so much because my two cousins are breast cancer survivors, but sadly, I also had an aunt who succumbed to the complications of the disease. This is why October is such a special month for my family. We do our part to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms and encourage women to get mammograms and do breast self-examinations.
    Annemarie LeBlanc recently posted…Disneyland Reveals Tower of Terror Transition to Guardians of the Galaxy Ride

  33. I’ve never looked at Breast cancer awareness month this way. I can only imagine how hard it must be every year to be reminded of what you went through.
    Katy recently posted…How to Setup a 3-tier Coffee Bar, Plus Free Printables!

    • Thanks Katy. There are so many emotions around any hardship, right? Mine is this…and I do the best I can to be grateful and make my world a little better place by sharing my story. Thanks for visiting and commenting.

  34. Elizabeth O.

    Cancer is not something that I would like to see loved ones go through, I think we all feel the same. I really admire you for sharing your story and never forget that you matter and that you’re very valuable so never feel guilty for standing where you are right now. Thank you for helping raise awareness as well.

    • Thanks. I appreciate your kind words. I do believe that if we all share the good, challenging and ugly, that it will help us all make cancer a little easier.

  35. Thank you for sharing something so very personal to you. Cancer is such a nasty scary word that stops a ton of us in our path. Visiting from SITS and sharing some love for you today.

    xo

    • Thanks for stopping by. I love my SITS friends. The “C” word is scary, but the good news is that there are a lot of efforts out there to find cures or at least methods to help survivors thrive. Thanks for the support. xoxo

  36. I’ve got some people within my circle that made feel crying for them as well. If not for being unfortunate, it’s those days where we simply remember being so stressed out, frustrated and depressed. This is just a heartwarming read.

    • Thanks Karla. It is stressful…most steps of the way. But, being surrounded by love, support and positivity has made it a little easier for me. Hopefully for your friends and family, too.

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