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EndNotes

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.

Ask a question: Catherine welcomes questions about aging issues and grief. Email her at endnotescolumn@gmail.com.

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