Empowered by the Words of Audre Lorde

Today I am grateful for the hope in a fresh morning and new sunrise. I am also grateful for nature's beauty and the humbling effect it has on me.

I first read Audre Lorde's book The Cancer Journals a few months after my own bilateral mastectomies. I was still grieving, healing, and coming to terms. I was also processing many emotions, one of which was a nebulous form of anger regarding society's view of women and breasts. I had chosen not to have reconstruction, and I do not regret that choice, but I felt judged for it.

Certainly, part of that was my own self-consciousness, a limited acceptance at that point, and some residual anger that cancer had entered my right breast and my life. But it also stemmed from a culture saturated in pink and cleavage and women and our breasts being objectified.

So when I read Lorde's book, something crystallized in my thoughts and emotions. I captured some of that in this guest post on Nancy Stordahl's blog "Nancy's Point" in October of 2012. The post is titled "The Sum of All My Parts" and here is a portion of what I wrote:

A few months after my mastectomies, a friend recommended the book The Cancer Journals by Audre Lorde (1980). She writes about returning to the doctor after her mastectomy and being chastised by a nurse because she hadn’t worn her prosthesis and that would be bad for morale.
Whose morale? 
Diminish the individual and indicate that you know what is best for her better than she does. How dare you! (But this seems like what we are doing to one another and ourselves in the current breast cancer awareness movement.)
I remember being angered by what happened to Audre Lorde in that doctor’s office and feeling a level of acceptance for my own choices because of that anger. I also thank Lorde, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1978 and died of liver cancer in 1992, for these words:

“If we are to translate the silence surrounding breast cancer into language and action against this scourge, then the first step is that women with mastectomies must become visible to one another. For silence and invisibility go hand in hand with powerlessness.”

Lorde's words empowered me to accept my own circumstances, and to also be a different kind of breast cancer advocate than the pink-ribbon wearing, ta-ta sisterhood variety.  This has all made a significant difference in my years post-cancer diagnosis. 

My hope for any woman or man diagnosed with breast cancer is that they feel empowered to make the best decisions for themselves, based on their individual priorities and perceptions. Thank you Audre Lorde for your words! 


  1. I have always liked Audre Lorde. Thanks Lisa!

    1. I need to read more of her poetry. She's a strong writer for sure. Thanks!


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