I should be writing about the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium that I attended this week. I learned things, I hugged people, I made new friends, I saw old ones–and we made our voices heard. But that’s not what’s on my heart today. Today, Maria is all I can think about.
Maria Carballo and I met at the Living Beyond Breast Cancer conference last year. She was funny and beautiful and sassy, and I immediately liked her. She was part of a group of us that tried to sneak into the ballroom dancing competition that was happening at the same hotel as the conference (we failed, but we all complimented the dancers on their amazing asses). She sat at the dinner table where we decided to do the die-in at the conference.
And today she died. She was just 41.
I’ve written before about how much living with metastatic breast cancer is like having AIDS in the early 80’s. But today I’m really feeling it, how the band is marching on, while there is a crisis of women dying and dying and dying. I’ve had three friends die in the last three weeks. I have two more friends in hospice right now.
And I can’t tell you how many people have told me and my friends this week not to piss off the researchers, not to be too loud, that they’re trying plenty hard enough, that we don’t want to alienate them. That we should be grateful we’re not in the radical mastectomy era anymore, that things are so much better than they used to be, that 6 months of extra life is a major success, that we should be grateful for those 6 months on a toxic treatment that leaves us unable to parent our children, unable to bear children at all. That we aren’t arguing strongly enough and that’s why we’re dying. That we should just join a clinical trial, that if we don’t we can’t expect any breakthroughs, even though we don’t actually qualify for any trials because we have brain mets and we’re too heavily pretreated, and even if we did, we don’t live in New York or Houston or Boston where most of the trials are.
That there’s exciting research happening on our corpses.
So many excuses for why Maria is dead. Why Michelle is dead. Why Seporah is dead. Why Lisa is dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead.
How many more of us have to die before someone does something to stop this? How many more tears must we shed before someone listens? When will the excuses and the patient-blaming end? When will there be a sense of urgency? When will all this death stop?
I don’t know how much more of this my heart can take before it’s permanently broken. Before I can’t pick myself up and keep fighting and fighting and begging for help.
HELP US. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, SOMEONE HELP US.