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Extraordinary Stories That Touch The Heart And Challenge The Mind


The recent controversy about a nonprofit group that fights breast cancer cutting off and then restoring funding to another group that provides breast cancer screening brought back memories of my own battle with breast cancer.
I don’t intend to take a stand one way or the other in this blog about either group’s political views or who should provide funding to whom. I just want to talk about the fight against breast cancer.
The first word that comes to mind when I think about my own diagnosis of breast cancer is FRIGHTENING. It was scary to be told I had a disease that could cost me my life. After all, I had known people who had died of cancer, and in particular I’d known women who had died of breast cancer. My guess is every woman who finds a lump or is told a mammogram suggests cancer experiences fear.
Besides the possibility of death, there is also the treatment and its side effects to fear. Some, of course, are worse than others. In my case I lost a breast and my hair. I experienced nausea and vomiting. I had skin damage from radiation and was left with lymph edema in my arm because of damage done to lymph nodes. Because the chemo killed my bone marrow, I had no immune system and contracted numerous infections before I received a stem cell replacement.
There are other problems to deal with such as the reaction of one’s family to the fact that you’re sick. Women who have young children have an especially hard time with this. Sometimes a woman loses her job or her husband. Sometimes she loses her self esteem. Sometimes the fear is compounded because she can’t afford medical treatment.
It was because of all of the ways breast cancer—or any cancer—can be so devastating that I decided that one third of the royalties of one of my books would go to the University of New Mexico Cancer Research program. The novel I’m referring to, CRAZY QUILT, is the first book I wrote after my treatment was finished and is about—what else?—a breast cancer survivor. I decided on the University of New Mexico program because it’s located in the city where I live.
The publisher put a pink ribbon on the cover to draw attention to that fact. A recent article I read condemned anything with a pink ribbon on it claiming it was exploitation. Several recent articles bemoaned the politicizing of breast cancer
I can assure you that any woman diagnosed with breast cancer isn’t going to think about who funds the treatment she gets or what any donor’s or treatment center’s political views are. I didn’t think about that when I had cancer, and I didn’t think about that when I decided to donate my royalties to cancer research. In both cases, I was thinking about fighting something frightening.

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