For over 29 years I have been thankful every day for Dr. Susan Love. We met in 1984, shortly after I had discovered a lump in my right breast. I sought her medical advice, and I am alive today because of that discovery, the action that I took without delay to meet with Dr. Love, and her excellent diagnosis and treatment.
When I was diagnosed with intraductal carcinoma of the right breast (DCIS), I was 35 years old, and feeling “at the top of my game.” I was successfully pursuing a professional career, married, raising a young daughter, and living a comfortable and prosperous life.
Within twelve months after the diagnosis I had undergone a total mastectomy, been involuntarily terminated by my employer, was unemployed, my marriage had ended, and I was searching for a new career.
I can honestly say that the losses that I experienced during that year were overwhelming and that through the struggle to persevere, I learned the meaning of resilience, and of thankfulness for people who walked with me through those difficult months.
My health recovered. I rebuilt my life, found a new profession and circle of family and friends, and raised my daughter who is now the age that I was when I survived cancer. Elizabeth is an amazing woman in her own right, resilient and compassionate and living a full and meaningful life.
She invited me to join her this summer for a wilderness kayaking expedition in Alaska that she was co-leading. Together we paddled the waters of Glacier Bay National Park, listened to the breathing of whales, saw the American Bald Eagles soaring, and experienced the awe of the wilderness. One day, beside the Johns Hopkins Glacier, deep within the Glacier Bay National Park, we met a woman kayaking who was wearing a pink cap with an insignia that said, “Alaska Run for Women.”
I introduced myself and said that I recognized the color of the cap and the insignia as having to do with breast cancer. She smiled and said, “it sure does,”, then paused and said, “22 years a survivor.” I smiled and said, “29 years a survivor.” We hugged one another and gave each other high five’s. The next thing I knew, she gave me her cap as a token of the bond between us.
I wear it every chance I get, thankful for her, and for the gift of the pink cap, and thankful for the community of courageous women and men who have a special bond, having faced breast cancer and learned resilience.