Breast cancer patients know a lot about trust. As humans, we can see the outside of our bodies rather than the inside. But inside, disease can be growing, imperceptibly. We know what it is like to lose trust of our wellness.

We have to trust other people, healthcare providers, with solving the problem of our disease. And if we do our homework, we know that they have limits to what they can see as well as to what they can fix. The fit of this trust varies. I had wonderful providers. It was scary but I felt well taken care of, oriented, and supported. For others, the trust can be one made of seeing no other options, an uneasy and tenuous alliance.

Most of the time, when people speak of trust, they speak of trusting others with whom they share intimate relationships, spouses, children, parents, etc. We speak less of trusting ourselves, which is incredibly important. The breast cancer community has another trust issue. It is the issue of trusting organizations and institutions who say they are here to help us but who may be here to market our disease, use pink ribbons and such, in order to make money, money that will fill corporate pockets. Add in societal sexism and the sexualization of a disease, it’s a wonder that we trust anybody.

Many breast cancer patients, however, know that without trust there is no forward movement. And trust does not have to be blind. Trust is found in shades of gray just like the rest of life.

There are so many intersections between my breast cancer experience and my experience now in attempting to be an engaged and active citizen to work against the many rights and safeguards that are being threatened by our government. As you know, I was in one of the Women’s Marches on Saturday, one of over 600 internationally, targeting women’s rights and social causes. The groups represented were broad, not limited to women, and not limited to any particular race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender identification. However, make no mistake, women led this march. As a member of the breast cancer community, I saw that aspect of my life represented in the support for affordable healthcare, for example.

George Lakoff, Ph.D., a cognitive linguistic and Director of the Center for Neural Mind and Society at U.C. Berkeley, wrote about the women’s marches as a perfect counterpoint to our new president’s inauguration. He called it “The Politics of Care” and referred to the implicit associations we have as a culture between women and care-taking

After a wonderful day of peaceful marches on a global scale, some have already become disheartened. Not everyone trusts the marches. Some criticize the marches because they are not sufficient. Of course they are not sufficient. Other actions must take place. This criticism, in my mind, comes from not trusting that anything else will happen.

Another branch of criticism is about inclusion. Some felt excluded by the march. Some felt overshadowed by the march. There has been some talk of “where have all you white women been before now?” Those criticisms come from a lack of trust.

At this point I could say, “Hey, the solution to this is for us to all trust each other! We want the same thing! Group hug!”

I’m not going to say that. People who have been treated badly for who they are, what they believe, how much money they have, who they love, what they look like, what language they speak, how smart or not smart they are, etc, are not necessarily going to trust easily. And people with privilege are not necessarily brimming with trust, either.

Trust is something we must earn by being reliable and by being truthful, not just once but lots of times. This means that we need to keep working and trying. Keep your eyes on the goal. If someone complains, try to see the truth in what they are saying. This is not the same as agreeing. It is validating their emotions, at a minimum. Agree with parts of the view, if you can.

Find common ground. We are all humans with feelings. Connect on an emotional level. All of us love our families (even if it doesn’t look like it). Connect with shared values. And most importantly, work on the more difficult connections in person, not on social media. Engaging in endless arguments with people online will only deplete everyone involved and more seriously, discourage you from the important work that needs to be done. Don’t drop out of the movement because you’ve stopped trusting yourself.

Show up again and again.

Be open to learning and learn. A lot of us are new at this.

You know your own heart. Others will know your heart through your strong and caring hands.

Peace, friends.