“What do you mean?” I studied my old friend’s face.
“Don’t tell me you haven’t heard this before,” her eyes turned into accusatory lasers.
I swallowed hard because intuitively I knew that my heart was moments away from being stomped on by someone who supposedly cared about me.
“You aren’t as much fun,” my not-so-nice friend said with a sigh.
“Really?” I tried not to glare at her or kick her or maybe throw something at her big mean mouth.
“It’s true,” she nodded.
“Other people still think I’m fun,” I insisted.
“No they don’t,” Cruella Deville snapped. “They don’t want to say anything about it and maybe hurt your feelings.”
“You don’t mind hurting me,” I said in a soft voice. “I can’t decide whether to thank you for your honesty or … you know … hate you for it.”
“Everybody sees it. Everybody talks about it behind your back. Since you went through breast cancer, you are so different. You aren’t fun anymore.”
“And you aren’t nice anymore,” I whispered as tears filled my eyes.
After that conversation with Queen Hateful, I wanted to take a poll. Who else thought I was a stick-in-the-mud?
Who else says I am different now?
Am I really that different?
I spent a few days thinking.
And then I answered my own question.
Yes, I am different.
Like so many other breast cancer survivors, I have seen at least a little bit of hell. I saw my truth, meaning that some people proved their love for me. They showed up. Made me laugh. Cried with me.
Other people took advantage of me.
In some of my weakest moments they were opportunists. They were unbelievably hurtful.
Being cut that deeply does not fade, at least not for me.
I can’t get to the other side of breast cancer and pretend I don’t know those truths.
So, there are a few more empty chairs in my life now.
But I am OK with that.
Breast cancer treatment takes you to that place of raw truth. And it taught me that it is possible to taste an emotion, such as terrified.
More than once, terror closed my throat and tasted like hot oil.
Being rolled into an operating room, knowing I would leave there scarred and maimed for the rest of my life … of course the experience made me different.
I am so much more willing to put up a fight if my heart is being hurt and my time is being wasted.
I know so much now about powerlessness and helplessness. I know so much about courage.
And I know loss.
I lost body parts to this disease, parts that helped the world identify me and judge me as female.
Those parts are gone forever. I happily traded those parts, my breasts, for my life.
Yes, I am different now.
I know how it feels to beg to stay here in the world.
Of course I’m still funny.
But yes I am definitely not who I was before breast cancer.
During Breast Cancer Awareness month and every other month too, it is blissfully healing to laugh with and hold onto amazing women in pink, brave women who also know the taste of terrified.
We are so lucky. We also know the taste of grateful.
Sherri Coner is an award-winning journalist and humor writer who speaks to women’s groups. To learn about her books for women and to join her on Facebook, visit www.sherriconer.com.