Earlier today on Twitter, I was told that, because I had breast cancer, and because my breast cancer treatments rendered me unable to have a child, I am “half of a woman” by a man who is a Trump supporter. He added, “Deal with it.” This was in response to a comment I made on an article about parental leave.
Before this post goes any further, I will point out that this is not a political blog. This blog is about fitness, and inspiration, and cancer. The only times I’ve posted about anything political was about the healthcare debate, and that was from my perspective as someone who had cancer and does not have employer-paid insurance.
Do not use this post to start a rant – on either side.
But I’m posting this now because, quite frankly, I was stunned. And absolutely cut to the quick. So, how to unpack this?
First, I have always been open about my cancer experience – the good, the bad, the ugly. From the beginning, the day of diagnosis, I’ve told people the truth. Maybe just because, as a young healthy woman, it was such a shock that I didn’t even think to hide the truth. But my response was always to try to make the most of whatever I had – try to feel as good as possible, to get strong, to stay active, to have fun. And when I didn’t die, I wanted to do something useful. I wanted to help others. I got certified as a fitness trainer to work with other cancer survivors. To help other people feel as good as possible. To encourage others to stay involved with their bodies in a positive way.
Second, I don’t hide my personal opinions. I generally keep them to my personal pages, keep them off of this site. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. I do believe it’s possible – and necessary – to have discussions with people who have other opinions. But I do expect that the discussions remain civil – about ideas and facts – not hurtful. The only people I have blocked on FB or Twitter are people who refused to not be mean and personal. I do not block people just because they disagree with me. At some point, I disagree with pretty much everyone about something. But I try to stick to facts, try to not get personal or mean. I’m sure I don’t always succeed, but that’s my goal.
Third, although body image is a BIG issue for a lot of people with cancer, and especially breast cancer, I generally have a pretty good sense of my body. My self image has always been tied more to what I could do rather than how I looked. (OK, not always, I had to work at it for a long time.) But as long as I was strong and could do the things I enjoyed, I felt pretty good – even with only one breast.
But this year, this election cycle, has been tough for a lot of folks. There’s a HUGE amount of discussion of women’s worth as tied to breast size, attractiveness, and size in the public discourse. It’s a constant barrage.
And then I tweeted something about how it felt to hear that a woman’s most important job was as mother, with the implication that the rest of us are somehow less important. And I was told that I really was just half of a woman – only one breast, no children – just deal with it.
All the things that people say – consider the source, don’t stoop to their level, hold your head high – couldn’t take away the sting. While I know that what he wrote is not true, it brought back memories of looking with confusion at my reflection in the mirror because I didn’t recognize my body, of struggling to lift my arm or open a door, of bursting into tears after attending the birthday party of a friend’s child or seeing proud videos posted of recitals because I would never have that for my own.
I cried. I actually cried over a tweet. A Trump supporter made me cry.
I tried to think of the worst thing I could respond with. And then I saw a tweet by Senator Cory Booker, and I borrowed his words instead: May we both encourage and elevate more than we tear others down.
So why am I writing about this? Because maybe I want to try to change things. Because I guess my response is the same as it was to cancer – to try to make things better. I can’t change a very angry man. But I can take inspiration from a senator and change how I respond. I can choose to not add to the angry rhetoric. I can focus on making the world around me a bit better. I can continue to help others be a little bit healthier, and maybe provide a little motivation along the way. I can continue writing, playing music, putting some good out into the world.
Therefore, I went out into the woods for a walk – to clear my head and to make a choice for health. Instead of sinking into a very dark place, I went walking in the woods, looking for light.
Now, I have to go practice, so that tomorrow I’ll be prepared to put some music in the air. The next day I’ll work with some fitness clients (and work on my own fitness). I’ll write, always striving to tell the truth, hopefully in an entertaining and uplifting way. And I’ll run and hike and always look for the light.
Be good to each other.