Setting sail into survivorship

CURE invited Suzanne Harp, a recently diagnosed breast cancer survivor, to serve as a guest blogger during the 10th Annual Conference for Young Women Affected by Breast Cancer in Atlanta, February 26-28.After six months of stumbling though a daze of diagnosis, surgery, and treatment, this weekend is marked on my calendar in red ink.Even the "snow hurricane" swirling around the East Coast cannot keep me from attending the 10th Annual Conference for Young Women Affected by Breast Cancer in Atlanta. At the very least, all those waits at the hospital have taught me to be patient in the airport. But it's an odd sort of anticipation: there are still moments when I can't believe all this really happened to me. I hope the event will symbolize my transition from "I have what?" to joining the company of women who are making the most of their lives and doing their part to help find a cure.However, before I join this community of the bald, brave, and beautiful, there is apparently a lei ceremony. The last time I was "lei'ed" was 18 months ago on my honeymoon in Kauai. But upon arrival to the conference, we will receive a faux floral necklace color-coded to our status--years of survivorship, whether we have metastasis, and so on. For some reason, I have a bit of trepidation about this; perhaps I subconsciously think it will make the diagnosis more official?Still, Shriners have hats, square dancers have crinolines, wearing something unique is part of being initiated into a group. Even though my last participation in a women's organization involved a green jumper and selling Thin Mints, I have always been fascinated with gatherings, like conventions of Mary Kay sales ladies and Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority members. Now, I am a card-carrying member of the cancer club.Which brings me to my real question: What sort of survivor do I want to be?While I like looking at pictures of women in resplendent pink breast cancer awareness outfits, I'm not comfortable wearing pink ribbons yet. I sometimes wonder if people expect me to live a perfect cancer-fighting lifestyle now. Some of my breast cancer buddies have made huge strides like going vegan and eliminating sugar. I'm still trying to cut down on hamburgers. There has already been a little dust up on the YSC message boards about alcohol. One poster believes it's irresponsible for a cancer organization to offer cocktails, while another woman counters that after seven years with mets she's earned a margarita.One thing I am sure of: I'm very grateful for this opportunity to write; it allows me to slip into a familiar role of being a journalist. While I have not figured out how pink or organic I will be, I know I believe in the power of communication. United we stand, as long as our shoes are comfortable.

Suzanne Harp spent 10 years as a television news anchor in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Maine, and New York. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in September. She lives in New York City with her husband Ethan, and blogs at www.joinourloop.blogspot.com.