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Breast cancer

Breast cancer …the words still sting – eight years later – when I use them to describe my health history. Some cancer survivors say, “Cancer was a gift.” Ummm, not my idea of a gift. I prefer boarding passes to fun places and homemade cards, cakes and family adventures as gifts. Not illness.

But I do get their message: the lessons learned from the experience remain.

Mostly, I cherish the outpouring of kindness from strangers –women whose posts on the breast cancer  web site   strengthened me and calmed my out-of-control anxiety. Women sent cards, one sent a jewelry pin of women standing together, telling me I was not alone. Mostly, I cherish those 3:00 a.m. messages when I had insomnia and would slip out of bed and log on, posting my questions, grief and fear. Within a few minutes women – often from a time zone where the sun was up – would answer.   I will never know their names, all the details of their breast cancer journeys, but I will love them forever.

A wonderful friend was diagnosed earlier this year with breast cancer, a cousin, too  and this week another woman I know, my age, faces those awful treatment choices.  I want to stay close and offer details of my journey, when asked.  Mostly, I want to be there in their 3:00 a.m. moments of terror or grief or loneliness.

I want to be their gift.

(S-R archives photo: Breast cancer survivors pose for a group photograph behind the INB Performing Arts Center on Sunday, April 17, 2011. )

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About this blog

Writer Catherine Johnston of Olympia, Wash., addresses issues facing aging baby boomers and seniors as well as issues of serious illness, death and dying, grief and loss.

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