Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Cancer Card

Yesterday, in a business setting, a woman, a complete stranger, said to me, “I’m a three time breast cancer survivor.”

All day I thought about that and wondered at her need to describe herself that way. I don’t know if she’s married, a mom, has cats, belongs to the Libertarian party, hates the sound of chalk on a blackboard but I know about her breasts and her health.

What I also know is that this experience has so colored her life that it has become her identity. That seems as great a tragedy as the surgeries and treatments she has been through.

Many years ago a therapist trying to help me with the thoughts and behaviors that kept me stuck, said to me, “Play another card.” She explained that we are all dealt a hand of cards--maybe 7 to ten cards--good stuff, hard stuff. But she said some people just play the same card over and over. “Look at your hand”, she said, “and play another card.”

I wanted to say that to the woman—whose name I don’t know but who believes that the most important thing about her is breast cancer. She cannot stop playing the cancer card. I want to say to her, “Please, for the sake of your life, play another card.”

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