I’m a medium baseball fan. We’re different from BIG baseball fans. I like going to games, having a hot dog, and cheering my team on. But here’s where the mediums and the BIGs part company. I don’t like baseball when it’s cold or rainy. I don’t keep up with stats. And I really can’t tell the difference between a fast ball and a curve ball.

A curve ball in life, however … now that’s something I can relate to. Most of us cancer survivors can. There we were, percolating along, having a good life. Then, Wham! From out of nowhere we get hit with a pitch we never saw coming. And one of the first things to go through our minds is, “Why me?” 

I admit, I asked it. When I was diagnosed on April 8, 2011, I was a newlywed and my eldest son was headed to the war in Afghanistan for six months. That was a lot to handle. “Why me?” seemed a reasonable thing to ask the universe. 

It’s a rhetorical question that could garner equally rhetorical  responses. “If not you, then who? Should it be her? Or him? Or how about that lady over there? Basically, why not you?” But maybe it’s not so rhetorical. Maybe it has more value than we realize. 

Just before my mastectomy, a hospital representative talked to me about donating my tumor (and the boob it lived in) to research. She explained that my particularly aggressive breast cancer – Triple Negative – was unusual in a woman of my age and race, and therefore valuable for study.  She assured me that when it had fulfilled its purpose, my tumor and its surrounding tissue would be respectfully disposed of. 

Perhaps it was in response to my fear, or maybe the wonderful la-la drugs dripping into my vein at the time, but this statement struck me as funny. Why should I worry about respecting my tumor? After all, it was trying to kill me. Then in September of last year, the Cancer Genome Project announced groundbreaking findings that made me sit up and take notice. 

The researchers analyzed 825 breast tumors and concluded that Triple Negative breast cancer is very similar in structure to ovarian cancer. That finding could change the way one or both of the cancers are treated. My tumor was most probably among those studied. Perhaps that was the answer to “Why me?’ But it wasn’t the only answer.

I believe in two things unwaveringly: first, everything happens for a reason, even the bad things. And secondly, we all owe a payback to humanity. My tumor’s participation in the study fit the first. My payback to humanity came in the form of sore joints, difficulty sleeping and mental foginess, all common post-chemo conditions. As I researched other survivor issues on the internet, I stumbled upon the National Women Survivors Convention (www.survivorsconvention.com), to be held in Nashville, August 22 – 24. 

Unlike typical medical conventions, this one was created for survivors by survivors. It will include educational, motivational and inspirational sessions covering all aspects of survivorship. I signed on as a volunteer and am spreading the news far and wide. And because I have a very loud and very persistent voice, this is clearly my payback for a life that’s given me so much.

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Visit Judy’s website at www.courageconcepts.com

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