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Grieving the friends we love and the bodies we've lost
It’s one of those things we as a society and culture hardly talk about. We know people will pass away one day. It’s hard on the ones left behind, but no one talks about the toll it takes on you mentally and physically.
This is especially true for those of us within the cancer community.
You see, we make friends with others who have walked the same journey as us: diagnosed with cancer, surgery, treatment, navigating the waters of life after cancer (whatever that means).
A lot of us call each other friends even though we haven’t met “in real life”. And you damn sure can’t tell us we aren’t the best of friends!
We’ve watched each other’s kids grow up and go to school; birthday parties posted with us commenting like we were there, “Yasss to the decorations you did a great job;” pictures of date nights with significant others *insert heart emoji* etc.
Grief for our bodies & ourselves
Not only do we grieve the ones we’ve lost in this process, we grieve the body parts we’ve lost too. Like our breasts and our hair; or the friendships and relationships that have come and gone; or the person that we once were - the woman who we used to look at in the mirror, but suddenly had to leave behind.
While we still may catch glimpses of her, we know she’s no longer 'here', in the present sense.
Do you feel guilty because you survived, but she did not? How do you pick up the pieces of yourself once someone or a part of you is gone?
These are all great questions that I wish I had the answers to. I also wish more of us were open to talking about it, you know, that thing grief.
I met one of my best friends on Instagram at a point in my life when I needed her the most. I know that now in hindsight. I never thought today as I’m writing this, she would not still be here with me, with all of us. When she passed away, it shook me to my core. The best way I can describe it is the silence around me was deafening.
If I can give any advice while I am still cycling through my grief is to give yourself time, be gentle to yourself and those around you.
Look back at the woman who was in the mirror and thank her for the lessons she taught you before you were diagnosed.
Then look at who you are now and thank her for the lessons she is going to teach you.
Be real with how you feel and find someone unbiased to talk with so you can unload all that shit and leave it at the doorstep.
That deafening silence we talked about? Sit there for a minute, feel its presence, breathe and let it go.
Then call your friends over for a glass of wine because you’ll need it!
You are still grieving and will most likely continue to grieve. And you know what….that’s fucking OK!
Take your time!
Marissa Thomas, co-founder of “For the Breast of Us”, is a three-year breast cancer survivor. Her passion going forward is to help anyone who comes behind her and has to fight this horrible disease. Focusing primarily on women of colour, educating them on navigating the healthcare system and defining life after cancer. She wants women to know that they can “continue living your best life, regardless of the circumstance.”
About For the Breast of Us
Founded in 2019, For the Breast of Us is the first website dedicated to sharing stories of women of colour affected by breast cancer and their co-survivors. To help close the health disparity gap, For the Breast of Us offers resources, tools and support through storytelling to help women of colour overcome the barriers to quality treatment and long-term survivorship. For more information visit breastofus.com.
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