Archive for Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Life’s prism shines light on cancer

October 8, 2008

If the word “breast” offends you and the word “cancer” scares you, you probably shouldn’t read any further. On the other hand, maybe you should.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month; boy am I aware. Almost everyone knows someone or has a family member who has experienced breast cancer. If my figures are correct, one in four women will experience breast cancer.

When a phone call comes and a physician asks you if it is good time to talk and the conversation is about the results of your own biopsy, the statistics take on a whole new meaning. I am not going to say it knocked the props out from under me; it did give me a jolt.

My niece writes to me in an e-mail about a reflection she had during Mass one morning. She thinks of life as a prism, with sunlight shifting during the day and different colors of light appear and move across the room — our life, she says, is a prism.

You have, she said, a whole new color becoming visible. Then she added: “I want to see it with you.”

The evening I returned from my first visit with my oncologist, our reading group met. We read “Luncheon of the Boating Party” by Susan Vreeland; a fictionalized account of the painting of the same name by Renoir. Some found the reading tedious; others found it distracting; still others found it interesting; none found it a book to be picked up and read, except for the reading group.

We often find that to be the case. We just finished reading “The Nine,” Jeffrey Toobin’s fascinating analysis of the workings of the Supreme Court — a must read for anyone interested in understanding the process of judicial decision-making at the highest level.

It is fair to say, we all found Toobin’s analysis compelling.

We discussed the book that night; we also discussed breast cancer. We have another member of our group who is two steps ahead of me in the process. Breast cancer, like some books, can be distracting, tedious; it is a book no one would read by choice.

I am glad I’m a woman; not because I have breast cancer, but because women seemed to know how to handle these things — once you get over being scared half to death. You can only do that for a few minutes because there is suddenly so much to do and so little time to do it in.

So the bald head you will soon see is mine; another journey about to begin. I am more than grateful to people like my hair stylist who, having cut my hair, looked in the mirror and said to another stylist, “Cut mine also, I want to be with her in this,” and to my niece who wants to share the breaking of the light through life’s prism.

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