February 2007 -- I remember as if it were yesterday. I was with my best friend when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. And even though I wasn’t the one who had the disease in my body, the news really shook me up. After all, the dreaded “C” word could mean the end for my friend; the standard script of living to a ripe old age rewritten to a curtain call before the final act.
While my friend was literally engaged in a battle for her life, considerable time was spent reflecting on the plans and ideas we had mapped out. We began to rethink and question everything: our relationships, career, and other aspects of our lives. What’s important? Are we doing the right things? How do we become a better spouse, a better parent, a better friend? Are we treating people well enough? What's the value we add to the world? Can we do more? And most importantly, what if the Hokey Pokey is what it’s all about?
Seriously, all important questions… that warranted thoughtful exploration… then and every day. But I was only looking from the outside in.
I didn’t have a front row seat. I didn’t experience the multiple surgeries, lose my hair, and suffer the effects of chemotherapy, radiation, and poison that my friend ingested for five years following her original diagnosis. I didn’t experience the physical and emotional trauma that she continues to endure long after being designated, “cancer-free.”
The fact is, once you have cancer, you’re never really “free.” Sure, we all know that life is finite. But when you’re faced with a diagnosis like cancer, you become more acutely aware of your limited time on earth. Mortality is, quite literally, in your face; a stark reminder of the importance to focus more on what really matters and how to invest our precious, so limited time.
My best friend is “lucky.” Lucky, because she’s diligent about her health screenings so the cancer was detected in its early stages during her annual mammography exam. Lucky, because the combination of surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, and drugs appear to have successfully eradicated the cancer. But most of all, lucky, because the experience has been a gift; to remind her and I to live in the moment, take nothing for granted, and treasure every moment on earth.
October is breast cancer awareness month. Ladies, give yourself and those who love you a gift: the gift of you! Be diligent -- self-exams and screenings are a must!