A breast cancer survivor shares her experiences with the BRCA gene.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Loss of a Survivor

My mom lost a close, childhood friend the other day. This group of 12 women--who named themselves the "Sunshine Girls"--had been friends since high school. Some even from elementary school days.

They've supported one another throughout the years--hosting wedding and baby showers for daughters, celebrating birthdays and anniversaries, attending funerals of family members. They were there for each other through sickness, heartbreak and loss. They celebrated joys & triumphs.

Whenever they gathered, they rekindled their sense of humor and girlhood spirit. They vacationed at the beach each year, and took many roadtrips as well. There were always hints of wild times and scandalous conversations -- never to be shared with children and husbands. ("What goes on at the beach, stays at the beach.")

Their friendships spanned a longer period of time than husbands or children. Their bond was closer than family.

JoAnn Scott meant a lot to me, not only because she had been part of my life as a "Sunshine Girl" since I was a child, but also, as an adult, she was a breast cancer survivor who served as my advisor.

When I was first diagnosed eight years ago, she participated in a breast cancer walk in my honor. She reached out to my hurting and scared mother and gave her support. Fast-forward several years later, and JoAnn was on the scene again, advising me on surgery options for my mastectomies and reconstruction. She was honest, forthright and caring. She always had a smile and a laugh...a lighthearted spirit who loved life and people.

I mention this because I think of this culture in which we worship fame and celebrity, but have bought into a lie. Because it's the common, everyday people we know who make the most dramatic impact on our lives. JoAnn Scott was one of the people who made a difference for me.

The other thing that struck me about her death--besides being the first of the Sunshine Girls to die--is that she didn't die of breast cancer...but from a blood clot.

I think that, as cancer survivors, we get obsessed about dying of cancer. Although this is certainly a reality, we may not die of cancer at all--but from something entirely different. And all that worrying about cancer reoccurrence may be for naught. I might be hit by a bus instead.

All to say, JoAnn Scott played a huge role for me. I learned from her in life--all about breast cancer--and, I learned from her in death--that I can't obsess about cancer.

Therefore, I need to live as JoAnn lived -- with a bright, vibrant spirit that affected everyone she came into contact with. God bless her.