For anyone who’s been diagnosed with breast cancer—or knows someone who has—this week’s news that after 25 years, Olivia Newton-John’s breast cancer has recurred is devastating. There goes the myth that after five years you’re cured, although most of us who’ve had breast cancer know we can never use the word “cure.” The correct term is NED. No evidence of disease.
NED is like living with a landmine in your body, wondering if, and when, something will trigger it.
A few weeks ago one of my girlfriends was diagnosed with breast cancer. We belong to a small, tight-knit group of eight women who started meeting 13 years ago, the week after I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My friend must go through surgery, chemo and radiation. Statistics show one in every eight women—who live to age 85—will be diagnosed with breast cancer. I was hoping I would be that one woman in our group, but it didn’t work out that way. Now there are two of us out of eight women.
Just because you’ve made it to the age you are now doesn’t mean you’ve sidestepped breast cancer. As you age, don’t get complacent about mammograms and breast self-exams.
Cancer wasn’t a “gift,” as I once thought, but it was one of my greatest teachers. Aside from giving me an up close and personal insight into my mortality, cancer strengthened my relationship with God. It made me realize that while I’d never have the mother I wanted, I could be the daughter she needed, and it helped me prioritize the things that mattered most in life. Cancer made me more compassionate. It made me cry over something as simple as an apple pie, and it made me determined to live my life out loud, preferably with music.
Since none of us know how the rest of our years will unfold, regardless of whether you’ve been diagnosed with anything more serious than the flu, please promise yourself you will:
- Eat pie
- Postpone death by living
- Extend a hand to someone else
- Dance whether anyone’s looking or not
- Put yourself out there in ways that make you uncomfortable
- Get to know God
My girlfriend already does these things better than most anyone I know. I suspect Olivia Newton-John does as well. They’re both in my prayers and the prayers of those who love them.
Oh yes! Number seven… Grab life by the handfuls, and don’t worry about being neat. Life is messy!