Typically, when I hear the word warrior the image that comes to mind is that of a beautiful Samurai in full regalia and face paint. I suppose that it may be because Ken Wantanabe took my breath away in the Last Samurai. But I’ve learned a thing or two about real life warriors, the kind that walk among us, the kind that go in on the front line and experience the battle of the enemy they carry within them, blazing the trail not only out of self-preservation but with the knowledge that their fight will make the trail smoother for those who follow.
In my hometown of Lawrence, Kansas there are two notable war memorials. The most significant is a beautiful bell tower on the Kansas University Campus called the Campanile. Campanile was built in 1950 to honor the students and faculty who died while serving in World War II. It stands proudly at 120 feet tall, on a rolling hill that overlooks the Memorial Stadium home of the Jayhawks. On occasion a bell concert is performed and it’s music can be heard echoing throughout the city.
The second memorial is a small wall also on campus that quietly states the names of Lawrence boys who gave their lives in Vietnam. On Memorial Day white gloved, ROTC students stand guard with unloaded rifles in honor of the fallen. It is a solemn and stunning sight.
I imagine that these memorials serve not only as a reminder to each of us who live out our lives in freedom but serve as a source of pride to those who have served and survived. We see these memorials and our hearts swell or at least should and for a few moments we are humbled.
I have six sister- in- laws. Three of them have and are serving their time as warriors of breast cancer. They too have regalia; wigs, scarves, hats, caps, prosthesis and scars. We try to offer support, send them flowers, cards, phone calls, we send them food to tempt their appetites after Chemo and in the end it is often them who hold us up.
They don’t fight for a “side” their fight is fought by women worldwide, regardless of religion, political party, age, heritage, skin color or socio-economic class. They leave behind their flesh for analysis, their treatment through success and failure teach the experts about how to proceed. As a result of their suffering we study prevention. In their honor we celebrate awareness. I often ask my learners if they think wars would occur as frequently in today’s world if our leaders were women. The answers vary. I think I know the answer.
A few weeks after the passing of my sister in law, my learner Sylvia explained that she had found a lump in her breast. I felt my head begin to spin and the tears began to well in my eyes. I remained silent. She was grateful that our company had agreed to suspend her lessons until her treatment was complete. We said goodbye and I wished her luck. To date she has never completed her lessons.
Dear Warriors of Breast Cancer, thank you for the sacrifices that you have made not only for yourselves and your families but for those who will follow. There are structures built in your honor, ribbons of pink to remind us, there are walks and various fundraisers. The National Football League even adorns their uniforms in your honor. Perhaps the most meaningful memorial is the hope that we have for the future because of all that you have given. Thank you to each of you, to those of you who have battled and won, to those who continue to battle and to those who have battled and fallen.
In Memory of Patty Perrin Keizer 1952 - 2009