this is your day
Today is National Cancer Survivors Day. There are more of “us” every year and this is certainly something to celebrate. Though we certainly shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that there is more to do and a long way yet to go.
Still, there are many good stories. And much to be grateful for.
I survived a melanoma – the kind of cancer that killed my brother – because, as I write in my book, the
… cancer had been detected in time, and the treatment, which had amounted to barely more than an inconvenience, had been successful.
Even if I hadn’t been a believer in early detection and treatment before, I surely would have been now.
I became even more of a believer a few months later. I had been on a rafting trip through the Grand Canyon, having the time of my life, and when it was over and I got home, Priscilla met me at the door. Later on, she would tell me that she had rehearsed how she was going to ask me to tell her all about the trip and pretend to be excited by my answers. And then, when that conversation was done, she would tell me, very calmly, about her news.
But she couldn’t stick to that plan. Her news was just too big, and she had been holding it in for too long.
“Oh, Connie,” she said. “I have breast cancer.”
I was stunned. That news hit me harder, by far, than the call I’d taken during the briefing at Moffitt. I thought, right away, that this meant I was going to lose her and that I’d be alone.
I go on, in the book, tell the story of Priscilla’s treatment, recovery, and how, where she had always been a very private person
Five years after she was diagnosed, she was chairman of Washington's National Race for the Cure, and she appeared onstage, at the Mall, in front of maybe sixty thousand people. Kellogg was a sponsor, so the character Tony the Tiger was up on the stage with her, and they did a little dance together. So I suppose you could say that she wasn’t shy about appearing in the public any longer. She emceed the entire event. There was no stage fright that anyone could see while she was up there making those introductions, dancing to the music of “I Will Survive” and generally having a ball.
And she was always willing. When people asked her to come speak and to help raise money, the answer was invariably, “Yes.” Most of her appearances were in Florida, which meant that she would get on the auto train and go back down there and drive to Orlando or Tampa or Miami . . . wherever. I would stay home, meanwhile, and make pasta for my dinner.
She raised a lot of money and touched a lot of lives. People around the state recognized this and appreciated her hard work. She was given the Don Shula Foundation's Wedgwood Tribute to Courage Award in a big celebrity gala at Joe Robbie Stadium. And she participated in a panel of cancer survivors that was moderated by my new friend, Sam Donaldson. She was terrific. Honest and straightforward, speaking plainly from the heart when she told her story and urged women to do as she had done, because self-examination and early detection had saved her life.
In the photograph at the top of this post, Priscilla and I are working the phones as part of the effort to raise money for the war on cancer. And you can read the whole story in the book, which is available in digital on the home page. And can be ordered here.