“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” ~Mother Theresa
I am old enough to know, now, that really wise people admit from the get-go that they cannot possibly know what a New Year holds. I find this realization a little scary, but my continued efforts to become a Zen woman tell me that everything will be OK, and that I should stay with that, and keep breathing. Yes, I can look at my upcoming calendar and note the weddings, the vacations, the graduations that I expect to happen, but those are often not the things that make a year memorable. Good or bad, the most life-changing happenings and most amazing discoveries are often out of the clear blue sky, and so it is with equal parts excitement and trepidation that I am wondering what 2013 will bring.
In January 2006, a sudden and unexpected journey through breast cancer turned my world upside down; the crisis was winding down by the time “Two Thousand Sucks”, as we came to call it, finally ended; treatment and healing took even longer. Six years later, January 2012 brought another part of the journey, unexpected and a little scary but in a gratifying and meaningful way this time, as I began a job as a nurse navigator for young women newly diagnosed with this disease. If you had asked me if I might also dive into social media this year, exchanging daily information, stimulating dialogue, and emotional support in spades, well, that was an answer I knew for sure: Uh, NO. Are you serious? Not a chance.
And if you have any further thoughts on this, you are welcome to follow me on Twitter or RT my blogpost or maybe we can DM each other on a tweetchat sometime. (See, you just never know.)
This makes me think about what is ahead this year not just for me personally, but for breast cancer itself, and wonder if we dare to hope that great things might happen before the year is done. I know research is a tedious process. I know that many say we are not that close to a cure. But some of us enjoy the honor and privilege of interacting with people daily, in our workplaces, at our doctors’ appointments, on our twitter feeds, who are actually doing great things every day, I mean, really doing them: brilliant researchers who might really find important clues to stopping this disease, gifted physicians who will actually save lives this year, great minds and voices of all kinds who will contribute to the data or the dialogue in ways that will turn out to be groundbreaking.
Most of us are not those people. If you are those people, please know that we are awed by your ingenuity, your compassion, and your commitment, and, though you might not even know us, we are totally behind you, rooting you on. We are hoping that you have the time and the funding and the institutional support to find the answers to this disease which has taken so much from so many. We will walk and run and send our check and hang our hopes on you, the brain trust, to continue your great and important work.
But most of us can say, with some certainty, that we will discover nothing and cure no one in the coming year. We come to this place through our work, or our life experience, or both, doing what little we can each day. But maybe by doing so we do, in some small way, add to the collective energy heading in the right direction.
We hope and maybe even pray for the great minds on the front lines. We send good thoughts. We support the women coming behind us in ways which seem small to us but which change the experience for them. We tweet and we call and we email and we blog; we share information so that we can all be smarter, and stories so that we might all be wiser. Mostly, we make sure no one feels alone in the journey.
Even though many of us are technically strangers, we call each other friends. We do these things with great love because we know that we are connected in this experience, and we know that if we do not embrace that with compassion and courage, we are less and the cancer is more, and we just cannot have that.
We will keep doing what we can: small things, great love. All the makings of a great year.