Tu Me Manques

Cancer is a horrible disease. Even “easy” cancers like breast cancer are horrible. I know this because I’ve had it, most of my family died from it, and a lot of my friends either have or had it.

I’m yet to find anyone who says, “You know what? I’m glad I had / have breast cancer.” No-one in their right mind wakes up one day thinking gee, I must add this to my ‘interesting things to do’ list and anyone who suggests it’s a great way to get a free boob job and some chemotherapeutic help with weight loss is terribly ill-informed. Sadly there are a few women in the world who think this way but the reality is that neither perfect breasts nor a svelte figure are positive outcomes from cancer or its treatment. Instead there’s more than an outside chance you end up impoverished, tormented and/or dead. Not much to smile about if any of those scenarios come to pass.

In spite of the harsh realities there’s a great deal to be thankful for when it comes to the breast cancer community. This vast and growing group of people all over the world understands the true significance of nodes, treatment regimes, clinical trials, funding, recurrence, metastasis, emotions and death. Everyones’ story is different and every one is inspirational, a source of encouragement and mutual support. The club none of us wanted to join is populated by people who are smart, loyal, determined, compassionate and empathic. Women (and men) who were going about their everyday lives like the rest of the human race until cancer sent them veering off course into a world of uncertainty, confusion and more medical procedures than most lab rats endure.

Being part of this community brings a sense of togetherness and understanding but it also calls for incredible levels of resilience. People we come to know as our friends often have stories that are far from rosy pink and perfect. Too many of our number have metastatic cancer for which there is no cure. While most humans deal with bereavement just a few times throughout their lives, members of the breast cancer community may find themselves bereaved on a regular basis. Joining this club means facing the fact that some of our friends will die before their time and there’s nothing any of us can do about it. It’s another of breast cancer’s ironies – friendships forged through one of life’s greatest adversaries have the potential to be life long yet the reality is they’re sometimes over in a matter of months.

Cancer is a horrible disease because it regularly steals away beautiful people, people who have so much to live for, who give so much, love so much and deserve to join the ranks of the old, grey and wrinkly just like so many other people do. Once upon a time I encountered death every 5 or 10 years. Now I encounter it every 5 or 6 months, so often that it’s become as familiar to me as the moon and stars. Familiarity doesn’t make it any easier to accept though; regular exposure doesn’t lead to systematic desensitisation.

Every time another friend dies of breast cancer another star disappears from my sky, the night gets a little darker and a little of that darkness lingers in my heart. In English when we talk about losing someone we say “I miss you.” Our French cousins have a different structure to their language and in French we’d say “Tu me manques.” This phrase seems to capture the overwhelming thoughts and feelings that come when the stars go out, when lovely people are taken from this life. Tu me manques translates as “You are missed by me” . . . To my friends and family who’ve died of breast cancer, you are and always will be missed by me.

Forget-me-not

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15 thoughts on “Tu Me Manques

  1. This is a wonderful post, and as part of the breast cancer community, I can totally relate. I’ve lost friends — in-person and online friends — to cancer too often to count. Loss comes with the territory, but each loss opens a new wound.

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  2. Pingback: The Weekly Round Up Returns | Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

  3. Just imagine how far you’ve traveled since this time last year…and the year before. I am reminded, once again, how immense struggle is able to cultivate a sense of antifragility in some such as you. Some weaken, some just weather the storm, yet, still, some emerge from the struggle stronger than ever and ready to face whatever comes next. All the best from the other side of the ocean.

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    • In our time across the ocean you’ve become a dear friend, a source of wisdom and strength, good humour, knowledge and empathy. When I come to your blog I am transported to Newfoundland. That teleportation together with your kindness and support have made a huge contribution to where and what I am now. Though we are miles apart there is a part of my soul that stands watching the bergs waiting for the whales to arrive and enjoying your company.

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  4. Glad to read about how you visited London to celebrate your son’s2 1st – what a great way to celebrate. Glad you are still writing, and I hope for the best outcome for you. You left a lovely reply on my blog in November 2012, and I have been quietly reading your blog since then. My son too is facing the challenges of adult life, we share that!

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    • Adult life is difficult for young men these days, so much confusion, so much to do, prove, achieve… I don’t envy them at all. As mom’s we do our best to support them but I always wonder am I doing enough? Do you ever think that way? You have a lovely blog, reflecting a lovely spirit and likewise I wish you and your son many sunny days ahead.

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      • I do sometimes wonder if I do enough – but not too often! They need their space to grow independently of me. If they need me, they get hold of me. That’s good enough for me! I love seeing them, but know that just me breathing manages to annoy them in some minor way! I often think how we manage our own situation informs them the most. As they mature, I see them bring the values they have experienced affect how they handle their challenges – I love that! Good luck with yours!

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  5. dear Tracy,

    your gifted sense of being able to be so compassionate and mindful of the many friends we are able to connect with to share our stories made this post so poignant. describing what you feel each time one of those precious lives is snuffed out – that it is like another star going out…and the darkness lingers in your heart… is a most apt way of capturing the awful loss and heartache our community endures as we make, then lose dear friends. too many darkened spaces in a night sky…tu me Manques – me, too.

    much love,

    Karen xoxo

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    • Dearest Karen, always there, always listening, always giving. One of our most brilliant stars burning brightly and warming hearts wherever you go. I am continually touched by your comments (and by the comments you leave on the blogs throughout our community). I sense we share many similar thoughts and while both our spirits shine we carry the same areas of darkness for those we have lost. Keep shining dear friend because your star is so very beautiful xoxox

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    • It’s sometimes hard to comprehend, this belonging, dying and wondering all the while how, when, why because there is no pattern, no rhythm, just unpredictable predictability. What I’ve learnt from our community and especially people like you Mae is that just because we can’t control the chaos, it doesn’t mean we have to be controlled by it either 🙂

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  6. Beautifully written Tracy.I always look forward to reading your posts.My Mom has metastatic cancer and is currently battling lung cancer.Your words are so true…cancer is a horrible disease and steals so much from us.Its very difficult to watch the little things we sometimes take forgranted being taken away.God bless you and your family and I hope things continue to go well for you.

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    • Dear Roxanne, you and your Mom are in my thoughts. I know the path you’re treading is so difficult and I wish so much that it would turn in a different direction for you both. Know that you are never alone, those of us who have shared similar experiences will always offer friendship, support and encouragement. I wish your Mom strength in her battle and send you both much love xoxox

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