Two Glimpses

I was at a dinner about 10 days ago and someone asked me, Are you a survivor? It took me by surprise. I said, I guess. I guess the cancer has been excised and I've survived. But it seemed sort of premature. On the other hand, why not? I'm sure there are even some people out there who don't survive the surgery because of some freak reaction. So I'm a cancer survivor.

That night after the dinner L and I were on the L and we sat down next to a young woman. She said to me, You look great! Or: It looks great! I forgot which. She looked very young and blonde and had a Southern accent. She had a big suitcase in front of her. She asked if I had cancer and I said yes. She was going to a gathering for a friend who was getting married. Instead of a wedding shower, a bunch of her friends were getting together with her for the weekend, in Chicago because it was central. The friend had gotten breast cancer at 27 and was doing fine now. She'd noticed a lump. We talked about how women are told to get mammograms at 40, and how unusual it was for a young woman to find a lump. The woman's fiance had been great, the girl told us. I felt instantly at ease with her and felt that we could talk about cancer forever. She missed her stop because she was talking to us. And then she exited at Belmont and her friends picked her up. I didn't say that the younger you are when you get breast cancer, the more likely you are to have a bad prognosis.