I have a friend who has just completed her year of breast cancer treatments. She is a strong, fierce woman and from the very beginning she decided to use the buffalo as her symbol of strength for her cancer battle. As she explained, when facing danger the buffalo runs straight at it, instead of following the instincts of the typical animal that runs in the opposite direction. The buffalo was an appropriate choice as her spirit animal.
When I received my diagnosis on October 21, the buffalo was the last animal to which I could possibly relate. Instead of running to meet this challenge, all I really wanted to do was to bury my head in the sand like an ostrich. What are you crazy doctors saying to me? I have breast cancer? Pink ribbons are in my future? That was never, ever part of the life story I expected to write. I didn’t want to talk about it any more than necessary, and for weeks I delayed telling anyone about my diagnosis except for my sister, who I felt, somehow needed to know for her own health knowledge. I also told a few close friends who are so involved in my daily life that I couldn’t hide the changes in my routine that were happening because of my follow up tests.
The ostrich was feeling like a pretty relatable symbol to me until I discovered an interesting fact. Ostriches do NOT bury their heads in the sand. The only time they stick their heads in the sand is to check on their (massive, see photo above) eggs that are in a sandy nest. The reason they may have earned the reputation for burying their heads is because when they feel danger approaching they will lie low and press their necks to the ground to become less visible. Their feathers blend into the sand and give the appearance that they’re burying their heads. Well, I guess that image works too since I’ve felt like I’d rather become invisible as well. Maybe I could go into a cave and wait for the all-clear to come out. But now I’m mixing my animal metaphors.
Back to the ostrich. Ostriches have massive speed, sprinting up to 43 mph, using their non-flight wings as rudders for balance and direction. And yes, if I could run away, I would also do that. Run away from the tests. Run away from probing doctors. Run away from the life-saving poisons. As fast and far as I could. But I’m too practical for that. And I know that’s not the mature response. Although I often have immature tastes in my entertainment choices, when it comes to something this serious, I’m all about the maturity.
Instead, maybe I’ll adopt the ostrich as my spirit animal on this journey for a different reason. Ostriches have massive speed because they have massive legs, with strides that reach from 10 – 16 feet. Not only that, their two-toed feet have long, sharp claws, and a kick can kill a human or predator like a lion. That’s some mighty kick. Therefore, when I’m done with trying to hide from this cancer diagnosis, I hope to emerge with strong, powerful kicks to knock cancer on its nasty butt.