A Letter to Breast Cancer: From Survivor Cathy Frank
Twelve years ago, Cathy Frank found a golf ball sized lump under her right arm.. Though she made sure to maintain a strong exterior, secretly - she doubted that she would survive. She described herself as “that Lifetime Movie breast cancer patient: bald head held high with a broad lipstick covered smile on my face and always in high heels... secretly writing farewell letters to her children during sleepless nights.”
But survive, she did. She credits the team at The Hoffman Breast Center. “from the oncology nurses who drew straws trying not to be the one to tap into my collapsed veins, to the technicians who had to deal with my claustrophobia, Dr. Trevor Kaye, Dr. Susan Pories, Dr. Tom Caughey, Dr. Carolyn Lamb, Beth Roy... every RN and PA in the building, the guys who valet parked my car every day for 6 weeks as well the registration people who often had to comfort my tears as I repeated why I was there.”
It took Cathy a while to realize that aging, and experiencing more life, and even collecting a social security check was her future. “I had to start redirecting the energy I was putting into dying well into living well.” She knew she had break up her long relationship with cancer, so she wrote cancer a letter. At last year's annual Survivorship Day celebration, she read her letter to those in attendance.
This letter is as difficult to write as I am sure it is to
read. We have had such a long and intimate relationship.
Without being too pornographic, it involved some of my
very favorite body parts. I kept it a secret from my friends
and family, how much I nurtured, embraced and accepted
your presence in my life... of course my husband always
I am breaking up with you. In retrospect, it was
always you who pursued me, I never invited you in nor led
you on. I did not become a better person because of you.
I never once put more than 15 items on the conveyer belt
in the express lane at the supermarket before I met you,
so stop taking credit for the fact that I don’t do that now.
The truth is, I’d like to see other diseases. I have a profile
now on geriatric Tinder and Osteoporosis and Arthritis
have already swiped right. And my children want me to
tell you that I’ve been flirting with Dementia behind your
back for years. I will resume my relationships as wife,
mother, daughter, sister, friend, and begin new ones as
teacher and Nana.
I will treasure, as I always have, many
moments, but I claim as my unalienable right, the option
to take a few ordinary moments for granted. It is my plan
to grow old. To release my desperate vise grip on time and
enjoy the luxury of wasting a little bit of it. To rise and fall,
laugh and cry, try, fail and dare to live an imperfect life.
I hope I never see you again.
Cathy Cleary Frank