Saturday, August 30, 2008

Six Letter Word

Cancer is a six letter word. You wake up one morning, same as you did yesterday and the day before, but now everything is different, the color of the sky, the way the light falls on your favorite flowers, the way you look at life and your family, it’s all changed. Cancer has come through the back door, the disease has parked itself in the middle of your life and now you and all the people you love have to deal with the consequences.

Writing about cancer, using breast cancer as a back drop for fiction has taken me on a journey unexpected. Someone said I made cancer a character, if I did, it was not deliberate. My intention was never that. Most of us can relate to this disease because it has touched us in some way, left its personal stamp upon us, a family member or a friend. The six letter word has taken people away, shortened lives, taken young and old, no discrimination and no rhyme or reason.

I recently attended the Kickoff Breakfast for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer. In a large convention hall with handmade quilts hung as decorations, hundreds of people sat bound together by the pink ribbon disease. At every table there were survivors, at every table someone had been touched by cancer. At the podium, speaker after speaker told their story, some coming back year after year praising the work of the American Cancer Society and others coming back to say somewhere in the middle of the months that passed from last year to this, they were diagnosed with cancer. The words spoken were touching and inspirational. People rallied to the cause and left pledging to create teams to walk on October 19th in Central Park.

I was there not because of the reasons that others were but because I decided one day like any other day that the character in my story would have breast cancer, that she would be a young woman, wife and mother who struggles with the loss of hope.

The slogan for Making Strides is: Hope starts with Us. Come join me and thousands of other folk on October 19th in Central Park. I’ll be there with Belly of the Whale, helping to pass on the message of hope and survival. Fight-the-fight.

Blog what you see, think, feel and hear…

Linda Merlino

1 comment:

Debra Purdy Kong said...

A really poignant piece, Linda. The first paragraph especially struck me as I remembered my sister's breast cancer diagnosis 13-1/2 years ago. She found out she had cancer the same week I found out I was pregnant with my second child. My sister's doing great and is still going strong. There is hope.