Day 24 of the WEGO Health Activist Writers Monthly Challenge, and my muse has abandoned me somewhat. Less than words, today’s challenge has me pondering more the “branding” of my blog, envisioning of all things, a mascot, one that might help give my blog an identity all its own. Would it be fictional? A real person? A mythical being? Given my numerous references to our modern-day myths around breast cancer, it seems fitting for me to turn to Greek mythology, to The Fates themselves, in order to complete today’s assignment.
I wonder if the ancient Greeks lived a little easier because they knew their destiny had already been decided, the thread of their lives controlled by the three Fates – Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos. I have visions of the three, gathered around a spinning wheel. Clotho, a maiden, upon visiting a newborn baby, spinning out a single shimmering thread of life, then Lachesis, more a matron, measuring it, casting its lot, and finally, Atropos, a crone, cutting it with “her abhorred shears.” I imagine these three each taking their turn at manipulating the thread of my own life, predetermining its milestones, the stuff of my destiny. I imagine Lachesis measuring out the stages of my womanhood, deciding when and where and how things will happen between birth and death. For some reason or no reason, she added a breast cancer diagnosis. Right in the middle of my life. Right when I least expected it to happen to me, when I most expected it to happen to some other woman, someone who had missed her mammograms or who had a family history, someone “destined” for cancer. “It’s just not fair!” “Why me?”
As I write, I am drawn back to the first time I read Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery. Since cancer came to call, I am frequently brought back to books and words I love. I settled into the story, as most readers easily do, anticipating like the villagers of its bucolic setting, the annual lottery day. Unlike the villagers, however, I did not realize, they would be drawing lots to determine who would die that day. The last sentence of the story, chilling, because we know only that the scapegoat has been identified and will be stoned to death. We know not why. Her screams of “‘It isn’t fair, it isn’t right'” serve only to heighten the fact that she cannot be saved from this fate, its chilling inevitability captured in the final horror of the story “… and then they were upon her.” Such was her lot.
What of the “Breast Cancer Lottery?” Just like Shirley Jackson’s villagers, I thought I was safe until, like Tessie Hutchinson, my number came up. 1 out of every 8. I was the one out of the eight random women who stand in line with me at the grocery store, the eight who sit around a conference table. I drew the chit of paper marked with the black spot – “cancer.” Such is my lot. What then of my fate? What else might Lachesis have in store for me, I wonder, before cruel Atropos might snap “enough?” Is there enough time for us to distract her with our pink ribbons and our endless races toward a cure? Enough time for us to distract consumers with inaccurate labeling on the products we use every day? Do we have enough time, enough sheer will to shift the breast cancer conversation away from early detection and cure and more towards prevention and cause. Are there enough of us? I hope so, because I imagine Atropos is already sharpening her shears.