McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

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November 27, 2012

Essay: Surviving breast cancer, and losing so many friends

(Continued)

WASHINGTON —

She is determined to live but is not taking any chances. In fact, she wrote and illustrated a children's book for her as-yet-unborn grandchild just in case she didn't live long enough to meet him. Her grandson is now 7 months old. The new grandma is working on the sequel.

She and I share a love of writing. She is the one who encouraged me to start teaching writing again. I am recently divorced after 20 years of marriage and four children. Devastated by the breakup of my family followed by my battle with breast cancer, I wasn't sure I could ever do anything again. My friend was sure I could.

I have not known any of these women very long, but cancer fosters an instant intimacy. I love my friends. When we make dates, I usually say something like "Don't try getting out of this by dying on me." When I go on vacation, I tell them they had better be here when I get back. We laugh. It helps. But the truth is, they might not be here when I come home.

I have been cancer-free for four years now. I have not always been grateful for that fact. Treatment was tough, and years later the side effects still dog me. Worse, though, is the fact that I have lost so very many loved ones to this terrible disease. Being a survivor is hard sometimes. I'm always glad when October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, is long gone and the world around me is no longer awash in pink.

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LaVerde teaches writing for Inova Cancer Services' Living With Cancer program.

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