May 1st. May Day.
It’s also the American Cancer Society’s “Paint Your Town Purple Day.”
Stupid breast cancer attacked my friend Donna when she was 36. She had no family history of it whatsoever.
After Donna had a mastectomy and a few rounds of chemo, we thought she beat it. Young and otherwise healthy, not to mention the sweetest woman you could ever meet… Of course she’d beat this.
Just when the doctors were considering reconstruction of her mangled breast, they found a tumor in the other one. And in the chest wall. She had another mastectomy.
Donna fought and fought and fought. She went through chemo and radiation. She went to across the country to Duke University for 3 months of concentrated, experimental treatments. She left her 3 daughters, her classroom full of 4th graders, her husband, and an entire community of supporters praying, waiting and hoping.
As sick as she was, Donna had a generous spirit and an amazing faith in God. Donna openly shared her experience on a website her sisters set up.
With her intensely personal account of her treatment, symptoms, and the daily struggle, we learned that cancer is evil and malevolent. A thinking, calculating illness that started in her breast, moved to her skull, her ribs, her bones. It compromised her eyesight. It turned her gums to tissue paper that would bleed unexpectedly. It took her appetite and dropped her weight to double digits.
If it took her spirit, she never showed it. She still attended her husband’s football games (He’s a HS football coach.) She still attended her girls’ sporting events. She bravely smiled through it all. She inspired an entire community. Literally, thousands of people. Through their schools and all the children she’d taught, all the friends she’d made, and even strangers who never met her but cried over her website updates.
Donna lost her battle on July 8, 2007. Five weeks after her 41st birthday.
Six weeks before she died, we got together for a relaxed lunch at a friend’s house. It was a lovely day and she posted later that evening that it really recharged her spirits.
- Think pink. Take care of our bodies, monitor our health, pay attention.
- Choose your day. Every morning when we get out of bed we have a choice regarding our attitudes and how we’ll handle the things life can throw at us.
- Pay it forward. Whatever the good thing that “it” is. Pass it on and do good in this world.