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I Took This Photo for My Best Friend's Family. Then I Found Out Why.

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Dear breast cancer,

You’re a bully. You walk around like everyone is afraid of you. You think because you’re unpredictable everyone will cower in fear.

Sure, you’re scary now, but your days are numbered. There are teams of researchers across the world funneling thousands of hours and millions of dollars into curing you. What will you be then?

You really can be a jerk sometimes. Late in December, my best friend’s mother asked if I would take family portraits for them. Naturally, I agreed. Only the next month, on January 7, did I learn why I’d taken those pictures. My best friend asked me and one of our other friends to meet him for dinner. I drove over, confused as to why he would call us, seemingly on a whim, to dinner on a school night.

His mother had you, breast cancer.

Triple-negative. She started treatment shortly after I took those family portraits. Those pictures were for the bad times and the worst case.

She lost her hair. So what? Now she’s joined me in wearing baseball hats. She got to pick out a wig in her favorite hairstyle. Breast cancer, you lose. She’s fighting with every ounce of her immense strength.

She refuses to let me help her out without paying me — believe me, I’ve tried. She agreed to drive her son and me to a leadership conference all the way in central Oklahoma. Just the other day, I helped her ready her backyard for spring. She was before and remains today one of the strongest and most inspiring people I know.

Nothing will get her down, not even you, breast cancer. She will persevere, and you will be banished from her body. It’s a lose-lose situation for you.

There are good days and bad days for everyone involved. There are noticeable downswings in my best friend’s mood. Those are the days I redouble my efforts to help. There are certainly days when my friend’s mother feels down for the count. And there should be because aggressive treatments can be hard to take. But she always gets back up, unbroken by your petty attempts.

You must have long arms, breast cancer, because you seem to impact everyone you come into contact with. But not a single person will be beat. Everyone remains strong, even through the dark days. My friend’s mom does not fight alone. She’s surrounded by a loving and caring family, a tight-knit group of friends and a supportive community. We will not be beaten.

What are you anyways? You’re an accident of gene mutation. Something gets messed up, and then you arrive. You’re a programming error, and it’s only a matter of time until that programming is debugged. Breast cancer, you’re an insidious creature instilling fear into all sorts of people. That’s just not fair, and it will not be tolerated any longer.

My friend’s mom will beat you. People as a whole will beat you. Your days without a cure are numbered, so enjoy them while you can. You’re going down, breast cancer.


Stu Mair

Originally published: March 18, 2015
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