26 years and counting


It's October again. In Texas that means some welcomed weather and the State Fair of Texas where someone will attempt to outdo last year's fried fiasco. For those of you who are not familiar with this particular tradition, every year there is a competition for the best fried edible (using the term loosely). This year the winners have already been announced, and one involves a cinnamon roll that has been battered and rolled in bacon and fried. October is also a special month for me as I make another notch in the tree of life – my 26th – since being diagnosed with breast cancer in 1986. Sometimes it's hard to believe it's been 26 years – there are days when it feels like yesterday. Since I have stayed involved in cancer since my diagnosis (some call it cancer as a career move), there are many moments that take me back to my own experience as I relive those weeks when my life would become a before and after. You know what I mean. The dates you use to measure where you were or what you were doing when you are trying to remember something. I had already had one of those moments before breast cancer when I was 22 and my 24-year-old brother Ed was killed. He was a Naval aviator and only a few weeks shy of getting his wings when the helicopter he was co-piloting lost a bolt and was flipped into the ground while on a training run. My whole life and those of my family changed that day in August 1972 as we began to reevaluate who we were and where we were going. Ed's death had been the marker of my early years. In October of my 37th year breast cancer became another of those demarcations in my life. Now that October also happens to be breast cancer awareness month, I always feel like the whole country is celebrating one more year with me. A cancer diagnosis is now referred to as the cancer journey, a definition that makes great sense to me. This October I want you to join me as I reflect on the last 26 years and how far we have come. I felt prompted to do this by a friend who called this morning to tell me that this week, more than two years after her breast cancer diagnosis, they have found a cancer filled node in her sternum. "Would I go to the doctor with her?" Sure I said. And then we talked about the next step, which for her will probably be another estrogen blocker, a new one that they will add to the one that has already worked for more than two years to keep her cancer at bay. I reassured her that we have come so far. Only last week researchers announced they have identified four genetically distinct types of breast cancer. When I was diagnosed it was either breast cancer or it wasn't – with only a few of the factors that we have today to distinguish how we are treated. So, beginning at the beginning and posting a blog a day for as many as I can I want to take you with me as I revisit my journey. Some of these blogs will be moments I have written along the way. Others may be parts of a book not yet published. But I hope they help you make sense of your cancer journey, if there is any sense to be had.

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