In Six Words
This summer we put out a call for women and men of all stages of breast cancer, past or present to submit a photo of themselves holding a piece of paper that described their own breast cancer experience… with one caveat. They could only use six words. You can imagine this is difficult, given that we surely have so many more than six words for cancer… many begin with the letter F.
The response was impressive. We are so grateful and proud that these individuals felt both willing and safe sharing their words and photos with us. We have assembled a video containing 77 women and men. The impact is big. It’s not meant to be a celebration or a happy, joyful video. We are not attempting to lift your spirits. We are however, trying to shine a light on these painful truths. We are trying to share what it’s really like rather than what is portrayed in the media.
Grab Your Tissues
We encourage you to watch this several times. One, because you can’t possibly take it all in with just one viewing. Feel free to use the pause button with frequency! Two, because you’ll see more than the words. That’s what caught us the most. There is much more to see than what is on the piece of paper in their hands. While it might make you a little sad (because it is sad) you will get so much more from it if you watch it more than once.
Naturally you’ll read the words that these human beings (these beautiful faces) who have been impacted by breast cancer have chosen to share with the world. They chose these words to describe their own experience. We think you will find so much in common with them. We know we do.
Notice the amount of fear, stress, pain, sadness, fatigue, worry, and death that is written.
When we put out the call for participation, we placed no parameters or guidance regarding the type of descriptive words to use. These are their words and it is easy to see the common threads…if you pay attention. We so desperately need people to pay attention. It’s as though they took their masks off. You know the masks we all wear to protect ourselves? What you’re seeing is true authenticity. It’s so easy to spot when you see it.
What Is Missing?
The common narrative is missing… and that’s a good thing! You will not see a series of six words here in this project that describes a happy, convenient, easy, ideal, carefree, or painless experience. But all too often the picture painted of the breast cancer experience is simple, dumbed-down, sexualized, gender specific and normalized. Breast cancer is anything but normal.
This is not a rite of passage in womanhood. It isn’t a pledge we must give to enter into some sorority or fraternity so that we may ‘belong’ to something bigger than ourselves. It is a painful and life changing event. Not the kind we celebrate – although the common narrative would have us think cancer, especially breast cancer, is one big endless string of celebrations. We are never the same after those three words are said to us… “you have cancer.” We never get to go back to normal or who we used to be, despite the desperate yearning to do so.
We hope that this project opens some doors that were closed, conversations that are aching to be had, and eyes that have refused to see what everyone is saying without a vocal word. If you take the time to look at the faces of the women and men in this project, you will see what cannot or need not be spoken. Mostly, pain. And while you will even see some smiling faces (and we all love to smile) sometimes that smile is a filter (that mask) through which a person can be provided protection from the vulnerability of being truly seen. But we see them all.
This is our collective story. Our collective pain and hurt. And we are committed to making it our collective mission: to change the common narrative of breast cancer. Please join us. You are not alone.
Our heartfelt thanks to every participant who let themselves be seen. Our thanks to all who take the time to view our little project. It means so much to us.
Donate $6, $60, $600, or $6000
Please make a donation in honor of #InSixWords to an organization that is helping women and men directly with their needs, their care, their treatment, and their expenses in your local area.
Nationally, please donate to organizations who are funding crucial research into metastatic breast cancer and cutting edge treatments.
Share this please so that all the world might see it.
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