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Let's all strive to stay in the pink

I can't wait to get it over with. Why? Once I get the news, I'll deal with it. Why do I let it hang over my head, putting my life on hold, when there's nothing I can do about some pending test results that are days away? The worst-case scenario would be a huge surprise to the doctor, who's pretty sure it's just an innocent little baby cancer. I guess I should feel all warm and fuzzy about it!

At what point does life begin for a cancer cell? If it's precancer, it's already been identified with the real deal. If it's in its early stages, what makes it so innocent? It's already keeping me up at night, like a colicky baby, and it already has a life of its own. I hope there's no right-wing coalition out there opposing the abortion of these foreign intruders.

It is ironic that this unwelcome visitor made its presence known in October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. As if some of us need a little more awareness than others. I realize I'm not the only one who will receive this news; there are many other ladies out there who will have their lives disrupted -- dealing with fear, uncertainty and, yes, some measure of vanity.

When it happened to my mom, vanity was a much bigger deal, as was survival. Lumpectomy wasn't a procedure or even a word back then. You had your breast lopped off, no questions asked. Modified radical, they call it. Now there's an oxymoron for you. Knowing what a radical mastectomy involves, I guess "the modified" is still a procedure to be thankful for.

Being something of a drama queen, I've told more than a few folks about my latest adventure. I'm not really sure why I'm so vocal about such things, but I'm glad that I am. The other day, an acquaintance confessed to me that she's a few years overdue for her first mammogram, because she's afraid. I told her mine was caught on a routine mammogram, and she vowed she would now schedule hers "in my honor."

In my honor, baloney. I'm not some valiant fallen soldier who should be honored. I've always had a problem with folks who are branded "heroes" because they get cancer and fight the requisite courageous battle. Don't get me wrong, I have compassion, sympathy and empathy for people who struggle with the many painful challenges of illness. But how does that make us courageous? We're just folks who got cancer. Do those who live to talk about it surpass those who didn't survive it because they have more courage, more valor, more strength? I don't think so.

Fortunately, my latest lumpectomy revealed no further treatment is necessary. As research continues, we may be able to prevent many, if not all, types of cancer. In a perfect world, research and prevention would be as important as treatment, and we're certainly making strides in those directions. We already know that our diet and our environment contribute significantly to those free radicals -- they sound like hippie leftists to me -- that predispose many illnesses, including cancer.

The truly valiant soldiers are those who strive to make our environment healthier, as well as those who heed the advice of healers who tell us to eat healthy, exercise and do all of those boring things we disdain.

In the meantime, be a good little soldier; get your mammogram in that unfriendly machine, which has only your breast interests at heart. Let's embrace the technology and the opportunities to take good care of ourselves and others.

Kathleen Baldwin, who loves living downtown with her husband, has gone a few rounds with cancer.

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