A salute to brave soldiers

Published 1:44 pm Friday, October 9, 2009

I’ve seen so many women here over the years. It has been such an honor to help care for the women of Bainbridge and Decatur County.

As the calendar turns to October, my thoughts turn to those women who have bravely fought breast cancer over those years. You should realize that this just happens to be Breast Cancer Awareness Month. If you have been reading my writings over the years, or those of so many others, you know the speech: Do your self-breast exams, get your mammograms and get regular check-ups with your physician.

Early detection is the secret to control of the cancer and that is the secret to long-term survival, with life on the other side of the diagnosis.

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It strikes me as significant that so many women realize that their scars are badges of courage. What started out as a worry over disfigurement and cosmetics, becomes a reminder of her strength, determination and valor. You know that when a soldier goes to war, he or she returns with medals proudly displayed on the chest. The breast cancer survivor does not wear such a visible and public award to show her courage. The people in her inner network, those close to her heart, know about the scar, even if they have never seen it.

Scars can take many forms and survivors of breast cancer can carry many scars. There are the emotional scars. The scare she felt when that phone call came that confirmed her worst fear, will never be forgotten. Etched in her psyche is the confusion she felt when the doctor told her there was a good chance of a long life, but that he/she couldn’t guarantee her anything. The worry she saw on the faces of her loved ones as she broke the news will not be forgotten.

There can be spiritual scars. It can be painful; the questioning that can occur in the middle of the night.

“Why me?”

“Lord, you know I have kids to care for, how can this happen?”

The strong women of faith resolve these questions with a stronger faith, but it is tough, very tough. The scars from the spiritual trials can persist as surely as the physical ones.

And then, there are those physical scars. There is always that scar that she can see whenever she stands in front of the mirror. It may be a line on the skin. There can be a depression where the lump was removed. There can be the absence of the breast with a long scar in its place. There can be a rebuilt breast, with scars from flaps used in rebuilding. The scars can be covered with clothes. No one outside the family even knows. There is no doubt, though, she knows. She knows without looking, but she especially knows every time she showers or stands in front of the mirror.

At first, she thought the scar was ugly. She has come to terms with that now. Where once that scar represented fear and loss, it now represents strength, fight and survival. The scar is a badge, as surely as the medal a warrior brings home!

No one wants to go to war!

No one wants to walk where danger is known to hide. But soldiers form bonds.

The threat around the corner heightens and fosters sisterhood, awareness and thankfulness. She who bravely goes forward and faces the trials does gain in ways she never anticipated. Often she finds an inner strength previously unknown. She knows what it takes now and she has found it within herself. She has found a new warmth and closeness with the family. She has learned so much. She has formed partnerships with professionals who have guided her through this fight. Sometimes, when she goes to the doctor, she can even surprise him with what she has learned.

Mostly she has learned that no challenge will defeat her. She has learned to take life, joy and health one day at the time, just as our God planned all along. She has learned how valuable the love of her family is and she has learned how her faith can sustain her.

Yes, there is a scar! But, it is really a medal of victory.

Oh, the entire battle may not have been fought yet. We may not be able to say there is no danger in the future, but we can say she is well-armed for the fight. She has learned about the enemy. She has formed partnerships with her colleagues in the battle. She has strengthened her spirit and she has built the bond in her family.

Is it really a scar?

I think the name medal works better for me. I salute the women who have taught me so much about fight and victory, and I thank you.

Way to go, soldiers!