A Little Fight with Myself by Mary Beth


I am a cancer survivor.  If you were to look at me I do not think you would be able to tell that I have had cancer. I do not wear any pink ribbons, or survivor pins. I am not sure why not…I think it has to do with cancer defining, consuming my life for the time it did and I guess that continual spot in my mind. But sometimes I wish I did wear a ribbon or something to let people know that I too am a survivor. A little sign of hope.

What do you do when you see a person that is obviously fighting cancer? Do you go up to them and give encouraging words? Do you stare in disbelief or with pity? Do you look away?  I find myself having a little fight in my head with Should I go up to them and tell them I too am a cancer survivor or do I just not say anything, look away and say a small prayer?

I found myself having this fight in my head on the plane back from my niece’s wedding. Sitting a row ahead of us and on the other side of the aisle were two women. One was all in pink with a hat and the other woman was healthy. It took me back to my treatment days. I sat there thinking of what to do. It is kind of awkward. You don’t want to assume, yet I never know what to say… Are you in treatment? Are you a cancer survivor?  So after quite a mental struggle .. I went to the restroom and on the way back I found my courage. I leaned over and told her that I was a five year cancer survivor and I wished her all the best. She looked up with a smile on her face and told me that she was diagnosed stage 4 breast cancer in 2009 and was now in her brain. They were on their way to Las Vegas to visit a friend. Gail told me that she thought about not traveling, but really wanted to go. I assumed that it was her daughter sitting next to her. Ann handed me a pen and told me of an organization that she started to raise money for Gail. The organization is called Right Side of the Dirt… explaining that the goal is to keep her on the right side of the dirt. Very Creative. The three of us had a nice little chat and I told her I would be thinking and praying for her.

I sat down and felt so good that I made the decision to say something. When they were exiting the plane, I noticed they were pulling a dark green suitcase with the words Elderwood Senior Care embroidered on the bag. That was the company that I used to work for when we lived in Williamsville, New York. I worked for the company for 9 years and each holiday the employees would received a gift with the company name on it. I have a blanket, cooler, duffle bag, umbrella, folding chair and I am sure a few other items. I must have left before the suitcase!

When I got home I emailed Ann to ask her if it would be ok that I write about our meeting and link to her site. I received a response from Ruth, Ann’s sister. As it turns out Gail was their younger sister, not their Mother. Cancer can ravage a person and really takes a toll. Gail had worked for Elderwood since 2001 in their corporate office. I worked for Elderwood until 2003 in a satellite location. I am sure that we must have met each other in that two years.

It really is a small world isn’t it?


cross-posted at marybethvolpini

6 Responses to A Little Fight with Myself by Mary Beth

  1. jillian says:

    I never know what to say either…but one thing is for sure – it’s a small, small world.

  2. LeRoy Dean says:

    We, all too often, say so little when much needs to be said.

  3. Amanda says:

    It’s amazing how much is missed with what goes unsaid. Good on you for giving the feelings flight.

  4. Therese Pitrelli says:

    Interesting perspective. As a newbee survivor following my double mastectomy in May of this year, I have often had the same feelings. It is easy to approach and speak with fellow cancer survivors in your doctor’s office or at the hospital but not as easy to approach someone that passes you by or waits in the check out line at your local grocers. I certainly wouldn’t mind being approached but I bear no outward signs at this time. I have wondered though if this would be awkward for the recipient. What if they aren’t sick? It is like the fear of asking someone when the baby is due only to be told ” I am not pregnant” .
    I realize now that it is MY fear and awkwardness that has let me allow these opportunities to pass me by. I will definitely strive to embrace this approach. I am sure that the individuals that I engage with will comfort me as much or more than the comfort I hope to provide. Praying for us all.

  5. Lahdeedah says:

    Mary Beth,

    I love how you handled this with such grace (as usual). I was on the receiving end of that kind of compassion more than once during treatment. One occurence that stands out: I was sitting at the counter at California Pizza Kitchen with my then significant other. I had decided to not wear my wig that night, as I’d worn it all day long at work and needed the break. A couple across the counter kept staring at me. The woman smiled. Halfway through dinner, the waiter brought me a glass of chardonnay, courtesy of the woman across the counter. “You’re so brave,” was all she said. It just warmed my heart. Since then, I’ve decided to take that risk, too, with other women who may be in treatment. Thanks for reminding me of other people’s kindness, Mary Beth. Hope things are good with you.



  6. zameright says:

    Sometimes we need to talk more even some said “to your point!”. Being a wise as a speaker is much better “worth-it” than coming up with the little words but suffer.
    Overall, I love the author’s point of view

%d bloggers like this: