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October 28, 2010

Someone said to me the other day, “I understand you are a victim of breast cancer.”

“Not yet,” I replied.

The current literature uses the term “cancer survivor.” That term surely has more truth to it, but I’m also an adolescence survivor, an I-worked-for-a-year-at-the-Association-of-Junior-Leagues survivor, and a pregnancy survivor. Cancer treatment lasted 262 days, AJLI lasted 54 weeks, and pregnancy (twice) dragged on for 18 horrid months, 24 if you count  the miscarriage I had before I got pregnant with my daughter. When does adolescence ever really end?

I have a good friend who was raped two years and two months ago. The next day, she got on a plane and flew to Dallas to visit me, still covered with gum from the adhesive tape they put on her at the hospital. Because I am an awesome friend (once in a while) I took her to lunch at the Nasher Sculpture Center.  Over lunch, she told me about the novel in six words concept and so we started.

I was raped. Get over it.

Cancer sucks, but there are worse things.

The common thread in our conversation from that point, other than outrageous ribaldry (Novel in six words: Finding a man beats keeping one) was our shared hope was that our experiences would not define us.

A lot of cancer patients use their disease as a launching point for the next stage in their lives. They start organizations like Young Survival Coalition, which sent a volunteer to the hospital to give me a fleece throw, a nifty tote bag, and one of two books on cancer I actually found useful, or the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation which my mother found helpful insofar as it let us know I was not alone in having a strange cancer. And of course there is Susan G. Komen For the Cure which funded the study in which my doctor, George Perkins, found the cure for my disease.

If you need a flight to get treatment for cancer, Angel Flight rallies volunteer pilots to fly you, free, to your appointment. The American Cancer Society will send a volunteer to the airport to pick you up, and if you don’t have insurance, they have a program to help pay for your treatment, although I don’t think they can pay for everyone.  If you have cancer, or if you know someone who has cancer, Gilda’s Club will support you in ways you did not even know you needed. These organizations, and thousands more, are funded and run by millions of donors and volunteers who have experienced the horror show that is cancer, either as a patient or caretaker. People who turn victimhood into victory.

I just want to move on.

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