Chats With Calliope: Sliding Otter News

Sliding Otter News

October 23, 2010

Volume 2, Issue 23

Breast Cancer’s Lessons for the Lives We Live

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience
in which you stop to look fear in the face.”

~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Paphiopedilum Orchid.jpg

Five years ago I knew breast cancer only in the abstract. It hadn’t touched my life yet. I wondered how it was that so many women and a few men became hosts to a disease which started eating them up and, left untreated, could kill them. Had it always been this way? If not what has changed? I knew some cancer survivors and heard tales of a woman who died of breast cancer before I had a chance to meet her.

Then my beloved companion joined her mother and two sisters in the family struggle with breast cancer. The discovery immediately took over our relationship, first inviting panic and then survival strategies. Would she recover as did her older sister? Would she succumb to the disease as did her mother and younger sister? What was her prognosis? What should she do? What could I do?

Now, five years later, she has reached an important milestone in her recovery and survival. Each step in her treatment raised questions, challenges and fears. Eventually we tamed our concerns and made the necessary decisions. She endured treatment while I provided what support I could. Our life was different but we survived the ordeal and drew closer together in the process.

Recently I sat in a room full of several hundred breast cancer survivors, some of a few months and some of many years. They came together to raise money for breast cancer treatment and research. They dined and participated in a Chinese auction of gift baskets and a silent auction of bras elaborately decorated by craftswomen whose creations had been exhibited in a celebration of breast cancer awareness. Mostly they celebrated their courage and solidarity.

I wondered again about why people contract breast or any other sort of cancer. Mutated genes have been discovered to make breast cancer more likely. Clusters of cancer sufferers suggest environmental factors. Most likely is a combination of hereditary and environmental contributors.

Fortunately, research advances now make cancer a much less likely death sentence. Genetic testing helps make us aware of our risks. Research promises new, less primitive, treatments more in the near future. We also know more about how lifestyle such as nutrition, fitness and avoiding carcinogens can help keep us from cancer’s grasp.

In these days when we are divided politically, culturally and religiously, it is reassuring to know that we can come together to fight cancer. Think of the pink gloves NFL players wear this month. Perhaps the fight against cancer can serve as a model for better cooperation between people in other areas as well. Thank you Zonta, Pink Hatters, United Memorial Medical Center Healthy Living, Genesee County Senior Center and GO ART!

Life Lab Lessons

  • Learn what you can about what causes cancer.
  • Do what you can to protect yourself and those you love.
  • Watch for signs of cancer and don’t ignore them.
  • Support those you know with cancer.
  • Tell and show them you love them.
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