Inside the Newsroom

News, commentary, insight on local happenings and fun from the staff of The Saline Reporter and Milan News-Leader.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Readers touched by column

I just edited Alison Marable's "Cancer Declassified" column for our Feb. 21 edition and wanted to post it online right away. It's great to know the topic she is writing about is helping a lot of people and I am proud Heritage Newspapers' Western Region publications, including The Saline Reporter and The Milan News-Leader, are carrying it, reaching more than 27,000 readers. As some of you may know from reading this blog, Alison is a friend of mine and I am glad we were able to give her this opportunity, while also benefiting our readers. Read her column below and the feedback she has received from readers like you.

By Alison Marable, Special Writer

The night before the debut of “Cancer Declassified,” I felt a sense of panic that maybe I wasn’t ready to share this with the world yet. At that point, of course, it was too late to change my mind.

The next morning, my inbox filled up with e-mail messages with subject titles such as “your article,” “newspaper series” and “what you wrote.” I was hesitant to read the contents, wondering if readers might somehow be offended. Disinterested readers won’t send me their comments, but an angry reader might.

The first e-mail I received put all my worries to rest. It was a lengthy, thought-filled message. She wrote, “Your analogy of the piece of paper that you just cannot seem to put down was right on.” Another woman wrote, “The paper analogy is perfect –– how long do we have to carry it?”

From that point on, I willingly and eagerly opened the many e-mail messages that arrived for several weeks. “It’s nice to hear the thoughts of other women who are living with the after-effects of this disease.”

Another reader wrote, “I admire your courage to go public with your story in order to help other women and their families.”

There were calls from readers in Grass Lake, Ann Arbor, Chelsea, Dexter, Saline, Manchester and locations even farther away because the column is accessible online. Employees at dentist offices and schools, shoppers in stores, even children spoke to me about my column. How rewarding to think that my writing has initiated family conversations with children.

It wasn’t only women who responded to my column. One man in particular wrote me a beautiful message that said, “It takes a very special, and generous kind of individual to share so openly in the public forum. Obviously, you are such a person. May God bless your efforts.”

Women wrote about sharing the columns with the men in their lives, something that I believe is so essential. “I’ve forwarded them to my husband and son,” said one reader.

Another reader described reading one of them to her husband, while trying not to cry, and that her husband was touched by the words.

Breast cancer can and does affect men, my father being one of the few men to be diagnosed with the disease. More importantly, women don’t go through this disease alone. We have sons, husbands and male friends who shouldn’t be excluded from the conversation. These men should be educated on what we experience as well as take part in our healing process.

Many individuals commented on the column titled “The Caregiver” that revealed my great appreciation for my husband’s care. I ran into a woman at the grocery store who said, “It was nice to see someone lift up their husband, instead of cut them down. That’s pretty rare.”

I also received an e-mail that said, “What a testament to your husband and to your marriage! It was very well done.”

Sharing one’s own frightening and personal experience is part of the healing process. “My wife found great support from discussing her grief with friends,” wrote a reader.

Many readers wrote or called me simply to thank me for sharing my story. I shared with readers and the readers, in turn, shared back with me.

One woman who works with patients with Alzheimer’s disease spoke in great detail about her own experience with breast cancer. That woman expressed gratitude for my columns, stating that it’s important to put the thoughts down on paper. She said she had experienced many of the same feelings, noting similar incidents regarding the reactions of other people.

Our phone call lasted at least half an hour and it was apparent that she had endured great obstacles. “Cancer taught me to forge ahead,” she said.

Feeling blessed, she makes a yearly phone call to her doctor to thank him for saving her life, noting the number of years that have passed with each call.

Readers called and e-mailed me with words of encouragement. To point out my impact, someone wrote, “I’m sharing them with a colleague who is currently undergoing what hopes to be her last treatment for breast cancer. See, you’re already reaching people you don’t even know!”

A school employee generously wrote, “You sound like a very strong and spirited woman –– someone your daughter must be very proud of.”

Many women related to the sense of fear that accompanies a cancer diagnosis. Listen to one woman’s words, “I wonder all the time if I'm ever going to stop thinking about this 24/7.”

To offer me hope, I received the words, “I willed myself for hope, optimism and the unshakeable belief that cancer would not get me, stop me in my life in any way other than to point out all the good things/people that were standing beside me.”

And that is the truth. There are countless friends who extended help to us. My husband and children are priceless. And the cancer diagnosis has opened the door to many new relationships with people who I would otherwise never have met –– staff at the hospital, other cancer survivors and the readers who took the time to reassure me that my column is indeed worthwhile.

Alison Marable is a breast cancer survivor and has a master’s degree in social work from Eastern Michigan University. She can be reached at Comment on her column via our November staff blog, Inside the Newsroom,” at

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