Advocacy or (my) Bust

Got diagnosed with cancer, was coerced into writing a blog by my sister while I was on narcotics, blog took off, asked to be in a documentary film, now I am an official breast cancer advocate.

Wow, that went in a direction I wasn’t exactly expecting.

In a lot of ways it makes a ton of sense. In my career as a doula, one of the most important parts of what I do is advocacy. I never speak on behalf of anyone else, I find out what is important to my clients and I help them remember what is important to them when they are in the throes of labor.

This is a very direct correlation to what I seem to have fallen into with my writing and work with the breast cancer community. I reflect on my own experiences as a basis for the overall topic, listen to my co-survivors and their caregivers and use my voice to communicate the bigger messages.

Advocacy and being a mouthpiece for the greater cause is actually something that comes quite easily to me at this point in my life. That being said, what does not come easily are the personal emotions that go along with re-living your story over and over. And to add to that, I am taking on the stories of so many other people and using them to piece together the bigger picture.

This can be a lot for me to carry. I am dealing with my own cancer odyssey in therapy right now. It feels heavy and I am unsure of where to unpack all of the noise that is rattling around in my head.

Now add to that the hundreds of stories I am told about other women’s odysseys. Then assemble it all into a neat bundle to disseminate to others? Oy vey.

Last week the documentary film I have been telling you all about was screened for students and assorted medical professionals at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University. After the screening, I sat on a panel that included the filmmaker and director, as well as David Allen, the tattoo artist, plus an oncologist, PsyD therapist and a medical bioethics MD.

L-R Joshua Hauser, MD, Lisa Flaum, MD, Patrica Morena, PhD, #Grancer, Rachel Pikelny, film director and David Allen, tattoo artist

Talk about one of these things just doesn’t belong here. Everyone on the panel was a master of their craft, many with advanced degrees. Then there was me. The lady who you just saw topless on the screen. Everyone else had a specific angle, a specialty to add to the narrative.

I was the narrative.


What is so very odd about this is that it is my story, my life, but it is just an outline of the much bigger picture. As I was featured on a large screen, I was also morphed together with every young woman who has ever been subjected to this disease.

This idea has left me reeling. I wonder what my place is in the narrative. Is it my story, or is it all of our stories? Who do I think I am, to be able to tell all of our stories? Who granted me that right? What changes can I make with this power? What mistakes can I make with this power?

I am not every woman. I am just one person who so happened upon a disease that happened upon a platform.

So I ask you all, what do you want to hear from me? What part of your odyssey can my voice help you with?

I spend a great deal of time thinking about how I can parlay my writing and now my platform of the documentary into something bigger. Do I become a speaker at cancer conferences? If so, what do I speak about? Do I write a book? If so, what kind? A memoir? A guide to…?

Or maybe I should just zip it and actually play with my child instead of forcing him to watch The Polar Express for the zillionth time while I write?

I am not a medical professional. I cannot make this disease go away. I am not a therapist. I cannot tell you how to appropriately handle your emotional wounds.

I am a co-survivor, just like you. I just happen to write about it and have inadvertently started a new career as a nude torso film star.

All of this helps me a great deal. Now tell me how I can help you.

For information on how you can get a screening of GRACE Documentary in your town, please visit the website:

La Croix makes an excellent makeshift ice pack #lacroix



One Comment Add yours

  1. Shenade Greif says:

    You are an inspiration and a heroine in my eyes. Love reading your blog and hearing your story.

    Liked by 1 person

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