Happy summer to my beautiful readers!
On May 20, 2016, I spoke at the spring luncheon for the Mass General Cancer Center on the two-year anniversary of my diagnosis. I was lucky enough to have two of my three doctors present, as well as another MGH cancer patient named “Kelly” whose mother had reached out to me on #mamastrong when Kelly was diagnosed with invasive lobular carcinoma. Kelly underwent a double mastectomy, 8 rounds of chemo, 30 rounds of radiation and three subsequent surgeries to clear her margins, and although I didn’t meet Kelly face-to-face until that luncheon, I had been with her on her journey from afar. We messaged on Facebook and then texted and I sent her encouraging words, and advice, whenever I could. When I ran the Susan G. Komen 5K in September, I ran for Kelly because she had just started chemo and was too weak to run herself.
Connecting with Kelly and with other women I have met through #mamastrong and my Facebook page has been transformative for me as I move into my second year of recovery. When I spoke at Mass General, I recalled the morning I was out running the Cliff Road bike path and my biopsy doctor called. She said, “Is this a good time to talk?” And then she said, “You have cancer.” What I remember about my reaction is that every moment that had come before that phone call seemed carelessly squandered and every moment in front of me seemed unspeakably precious. There is one gift that a cancer diagnosis gives: a new understanding of how precious life is.
It also instilled the desire to reach out to other women going through the terror of diagnosis and the challenge of treatment. One of my all-time favorite TV shows is The West Wing, and one of my favorite West Wing moments is when Leo McGarry is telling Josh this story…
A man is stuck in a hole. A doctor walks by and the man calls out, “Can you help me?” The doctor throws a prescription in the hole. Next, a preacher walks by and the man calls out, “Can you help me?” The preacher throws a prayer in the hole. Finally, the man’s friend walks by and the man calls out, “Can you help me?” The friend jumps into the hole. The man says, “What’d you do that for? Now we’re both stuck down here.” And the friend says, “Yes, but I’ve been here before and I know the way out.”
I am so grateful, two years later, to have learned the way out.
Sending you all love, strength, clarity.
Tell your story and my publisher will send a box of my books to your favorite cancer center.