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Baskets of kindness and reality

My friend Chris, who is undergoing treatment for breast cancer, is now in the radiation phase of the treatments. She goes five days a week for six weeks.

In the waiting room yesterday we spotted a basket filled with hats and scarves, and they mostly looked handmade — either knitted or sewn.

No note explaining, just a basket of kindness left there by people who cared enough to donate them.

It was another sign of the quiet community of people connected by an illness that, despite its pink symbol, is not pretty at all. Chris said yesterday that she finds helpful the more honest writing about cancer done by writer Barbara Ehrenreich who calls the pink stuff the “brightsiding” of cancer.

Ehrenreich wrote during her 2001 illness: The effect of this relentless brightsiding is to transform breast cancer into a rite of passage — not an injustice or a tragedy to rail against, but a normal marker in the life cycle, like menopause or graying hair. Everything in mainstream breast cancer culture serves, no doubt inadvertently, to tame and normalize the disease: the diagnosis may be disastrous, but there are those cunning pink rhinestone angel pins to buy and races to train for.”

Kindness and reality — you find them both everywhere as you journey with a friend with cancer.

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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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