Cancer Touches So Many Lives
It was a jolt of reality and really helped put life into perspective when earlier this year I received an e-mail from a co-worker in our Chelsea office. She said my friend Alison Marable, who I hadn't talked to in months after a falling out, was having surgery the next day to remove cancer. Reading the e-mail took my breath away. My heart just sank. I had no idea Alison had cancer. The last thing I knew, she was on track to receive her master's degree in social work from Eastern Michigan University in the spring.
It only had been a couple months since I had last spoken to Alison and in that short period of time, she was facing the fight of her life. What hurt the most was knowing that the disagreement we had prevented her from sharing this information with me and feeling comfortable leaning on me for support.
I immediately called Alison and asked her what I could do to help. Although I never hesitated to call, our disagreement from months earlier was in the back of my mind and I hoped she would not be stubborn and continue to let it come between us. Fortunately, we both realized life is too short and picked up right where we left off.
That first phone call was scary for me because the only person I knew with cancer died from it. My husband was diagnosed with colon cancer in the summer of 2003 and died a year later. To me, cancer killed. That's all I knew. I feared reconnecting with Alison would put me right back where I was three years earlier, facing the death of a loved one. But I never once thought I'd sit back and pretend I didn't know or care. I had to be there for her and for me.
Fortunately for Alison, me and everyone who knows and loves her, she's doing fine. She is an example to me that a cancer diagnosis is not a death sentence.
After her surgery, her professors at EMU held a special pinning ceremony for her (see photo above). Now she is moving beyond cancer, degree in hand, with a desire to help others struggling with the disease, and their family and friends. She has launched a series of columns, called "Cancer Declassified," in our newspapers. I am so proud of her and look forward to learning from her insight as she writes on a variety of topics that she hopes will provide support for cancer survivors, while sharing a survivor's perspective with friends, neighbors, co-workers and family of survivors.
Read about Alison's personal struggle and her first column in the Nov. 15 edition of our newspapers, check out her video on our Web site and feel free to share your story or comments on this blog. By people sharing their stories, we will all learn and grow, and become better educated on this disease and better equipped to deal with it.