It’s OK to talk about cancer | Linda Ball

According to the American Cancer Society, the chance of a woman having invasive breast cancer some time during her life is about one in eight. The chance of dying from breast cancer is about one in 36. I have found that it has become a big part of who I am now. It's not something to be ashamed of. At first I blamed myself — what did I do to bring this on? What didn't I do that I should have? There is no good answer, other than that cancer has its own agenda.

Linda Ball

Linda Ball

My favorite movie of all time is still the 1983 Best Picture winner, “Terms of Endearment,” starring Shirley MacLaine, Jack Nicholson, Debra Winger, Jeff Daniels, Danny DeVito and John Lithgow.

The story centers on MacLaine’s character, Aurora Greenway, a widow, and her relationship with her daughter, Emma, played by Winger. Nicholson’s character, Garrett Breedlove, is a retired astronaut, a hard-partying lady’s man who eventually wins Aurora’s heart and vice-versa, in a very funny courtship.

But it is Emma who steals our hearts, as she deals with her cheating husband, Flap (Daniels), and then discovers a lump in her armpit. For our Emma, who has three small children, it’s been caught too late.

Other than this development, the movie really is a comedy. In one scene Emma is at lunch with her best friend, Patsy, and some of Patsy’s high-brow New York lady friends. These women all know that Emma has cancer, but they never say the word. Instead they skirt around the issue and make comments like how lucky her kids are to have such a wonderful mommy.

After the lunch Emma is upset. When Patsy confronts her, she asks Emma, what do you want me to say or do? Emma says, “Tell them it’s all right. Tell them it ain’t so tragic. People DO get better! Tell them it’s okay to talk about the CANCER!”

The next scene in the movie is hilarious, as a woman at a party comes up to Emma and says, “Patsy tells me you have cancer!” Patsy, standing nearby, hacks up an hors d’oeuvres when she hears this.

Who knew that 28 years later I would get the diagnosis of breast cancer. Only, unlike Emma, I survived. Now that movie line has even more meaning to me. I find that some people are uncomfortable if I bring it up. Don’t be. It happens.

According to the American Cancer Society, the chance of a woman having invasive breast cancer some time during her life is about one in eight. The chance of dying from breast cancer is about one in 36.

I have found that it has become a big part of who I am now. It’s not something to be ashamed of. At first I blamed myself — what did I do to bring this on? What didn’t I do that I should have? There is no good answer, other than that cancer has its own agenda.

I’ve always exercised, and for the most part maintained a healthy diet, so I couldn’t understand why me?

On June 2, I will be participating in the Susan G. Komen Puget Sound Race for the Cure, a 5K run/walk to raise money for breast cancer research.

Seventy-five percent of the money raised as a result of the race and fundraising associated with it, will stay in Puget Sound to fund screenings, education, and treatment support. The remaining 25 percent will fund global research to better diagnose, treat and ultimately cure breast cancer. It’s the least I can do, because I would very much like to see an end to this disease that robs so many women of years of their life while in treatment, or their entire life. It really sucks.

But please know that talking about cancer to a survivor or even someone going through treatment is often what they need. Even though you can’t understand unless you’ve been through it yourself, lend a compassionate ear.

Because it’s really okay to talk about the CANCER!

 

Linda Ball: 425-391-0363, ext. 5052

lball@issaquahreporter.com


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