Saturday, January 29, 2011

What I liked best about having Breast Cancer

This letter was written by my sister-in-law, Noreen Harder Print who is battling Breast Cancer. I found it and her to be very inspirational and wanted to pass along her bravery in the face of adversity along with a reminder to have regular mammograms and do regular self-breast examinations.

The photo is of Noreen and her family after she ran a half-marathon, shorly after finishing Chemotherapy treatments!

What I Liked Best About Having Breast Cancer . . . . .

Smaller boobs – I had a lumpectomy, which basically means that my Dr. cut a big chunk out of my breast so as to have “clean margins.” How my other breast ended up the same size as the surgically reduced one is anyone’s guess, but personally? I suspect it shrank in fear. Anyway, I am loving my new look.

Baldness – Ok, don’t get me wrong. Before my hair fell out? I was a mess. But once it began falling out, I was cool with it. And I will be forever grateful to my friends Letty and Amelia who just happened to be available when the time came and were brave enough to help me shave it off. It turns out that I had a really nice-shaped head under all of that hair, and I looked so good that I decided I would not be putting it under wraps, choosing to go au natural instead. Did I mention how much I loved being bald? For those of you who’ve never experienced it, IT FEELS GREAT! And I learned a HUGE lesson that basically boils down to this: It’s not about the hair. It’s not about how I look. It’s about how I feel. And quite frankly, I feel wonderful.

Being Popular – (Oh yeah! Popular again after 30 years, what can I say?) I received boatloads of cards, presents, phone calls, and even became a regular feature on my writer friend’s blog ( After I ran the Columbus ½ Marathon in October, my Mom called my hometown newspaper, and they wrote a story about me. At the chemo lounge, and various other medical outposts, I was continually being pampered by medical professionals (would you like some ice chips to go with that toxic red chemical that we are pumping in your veins?). And let’s face it, when you are a woman, and you are walking around bald, everyone is gawking at you (and I mean everyone). Like I said – popular.

Breezing Through Treatments – What began as a nightmare, became a pretty damn amazing experience. I think I must be an anomaly. I know that I am one of the luckiest people on the face of the earth, that’s for sure. Here’s why . . . I was able to run 3 days after my surgery (ok, so I did have to carry my breast like a football and did have a drain tube attached to my chest cavity, but still). I never once became sick or fatigued by 16 rounds of chemo or the 34 daily radiation treatments that followed. In fact, if anything, I felt better and had more energy. I was able to keep up with my active family, running, graduate school, and even went back to work in August after a 4 year sabbatical.

Playing the Cancer Card – Admittedly, I never became very good at it. I tried to get MacKenzie to go out for the rowing team (didn’t work), to get the kids to help me around the house (rarely worked), and to motivate my students at Northland High School (worked momentarily or not at all). I almost used it to get a close-up handicapped parking space at a marching band competition once, but didn’t think about using the cancer card until it was too late. I did, however, use it to order last minute homecoming flowers while I was at chemotherapy once (success!). My coworkers have advised me to wear black when I am dealing with particularly difficult parents at school “to look more washed-out and cancer-riddled,” but I don’t believe this is very effective either. What can I say?

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