September 28th, 2019 was a monumental date. It was the weekend before the pink explosion of breast cancer awareness month takes over the subsequent 31 days. There was anticipation, excitement, hope and support, on the brink of ignition, all coming to gather at the Son's of Italy venue in Braintree, MA.
Breast Cancer is a disease that effects 1 in 8 women in the U.S. Chances are, you know someone who has been diagnosed. A breast cancer diagnosis is not isolated to just individual receiving the news; it becomes "we".
You see, when someone is diagnosed with breast cancer, life somehow goes up in flames and you are trying with every bit of strength to put out the fire and smoke that ebbs and flows around you. You have cancer, but life still needs to go on. How often do we say, "well, I just don't have time for this right now!" But somehow cancer doesn't care. It has come and it demands attention.
We live busy and full-filling lives and somehow, cancer tries to take over. We fight back though with our secrete weapons. We do no let on that we are ill, that we are sick, that we are nauseous. We wear wigs so others do not see our balding heads. When people ask how we are doing, we have the proverbial "I'm fine" response and then talk about the weather. It's either too hot or too cold in New England. It's too humid in the South, or it hasn't rained for weeks in the Southwest. We go on as if nothing has changed when in fact, everything has. We shed tears behind closed doors of our bedrooms and on the floor of our bathrooms so that when we open the door, all they see is our strength, courage, and fearlessness.
We Have Cancer
While acquaintances my peep into your world and mutter "I don't know who she does it." We don't request sympathy. What we need is community. We need those friends and acquaintances to come out of the woodwork because this is bigger than any one individual can manage alone.
Of course it is the individual enduring the treatments, the side effects and the pain, but it is the community that is empathetic, encouraging, a good listener when we need to vent, and a good support system when we are longing for a hug. They become the people we rely on for the small day-to-day tasks that through our eyes are mountains and roadblocks. We are grateful for the helping hand, the childcare, the meals and the strong family and friend bonds that emerge.
Collective Trauma Requires Collective Healing
What we end up discovering is that our community expands as we meet new people who are experiencing something similar. It is human nature to connect and find commonalities. The breast cancer community is a tight knit club with unbreakable bonds. We find other breast cancer survivors and warriors with whom we share our stories and perhaps even make jokes because we are in a safe space with people "who get it". There is a sigh of relief when we are able to identify another person who is experiencing something similar to us; a connection that triggers solidarity, a feeling of not being alone, of being understood, and someone we can confide in.
Community as a Priority
It is important, and I dare go so far to say almost required, that we cultivate this community, this space for support, reflection, and healing. That is why one of the founding pillars of Survivingbreastcancer.org is community, because we know its strength and positive influence on those diagnosed with breast cancer and their caregivers, families, and loved ones.
To recognize the outstanding work that organizations, groups, and individuals do to build and support community initiatives within the breast cancer field, we established the Survivingbreastcancer.org Trailblazer Award. This honor is announced each year in the month of October and it is with great pleasure and gratitude that this inaugural award is presented to Donna Mayo and the exceptional committee behind Paula's Power.
Paula's Power was created in memory of Paula Porcaro. Paula died from Breast Cancer in 1985. Her favorite flower was the Daisy. The nine petals on the flower represent her 3 children and 6 grandchildren.
In speaking with Paula's children and grandchildren, it is evident that community played an essential role throughout her life. Paula's Power was founded in 2019 and upholds our core values of community and its importance in a breast cancer diagnosis. As men and women paving the way for strengthening community support in light of disease, please join me in congratulating Paula....x.x....x...x....x.. in being the first recipients of the Survivingbreastcancer.org Trailblazer Award.