Owing to an overabundance of pride and a tendency toward claustrophobia (fear of mental cul-de-sacs and small spaces with locked doors), I've never been much of a joiner. The stronger a group's communal identity, the greater the support it lends its members and the higher the levy it exacts from them (in range of movement and thought). I sometimes long to belong, but I'm rarely willing to pay the going price.
That said, I've always been attracted to the idea of secret societies, the more spontaneous the better. I believe with E.M. Forster in a special form of aristocracy: "Not an aristocracy of power, based upon rank and influence, but an aristocracy of the sensitive, the considerate and the plucky." I look for the gossamer threads that sometimes appear with a shift in the light, linking people who never suspected their capacity to share comfort, strength, and inspiration.
So while I don't guess I'll be grabbing a haybale seat on the BC sisterhood wagon, I do find it difficult to regret my diagnosis when it has connected me instantaneously and irrevocably with remarkable people who would otherwise have remained strangers or near strangers. One of these is Naomi Seid-Cronkite, the mother of a good friend. She's an artist in clay, and she sculpted this powerful, unsentimental response to her own mastectomy some years ago:
As much as I love seeing big men wear pink, and as much as I appreciate the real good that major breast cancer organizations have effected and the real comfort that the "survivor" identity offers (especially in mitigating the loneliness of a frightening diagnosis), I am most grateful right now to individual artists like Naomi who have the pluck and tenacity to insist "This is what it's like for me if for no other." I don't need to identify wholly (or at all) with her vision of rupture (though I do) in order to recognize and take courage from its alchemical power.
Big thanks to Naomi for sharing it with me and letting me share it with others.