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Grieving Before a Loss to Breast Cancer

By December 30, 2012

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A friend of ours, Adell, was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer four years ago. She was treated and after nearly a year of therapy, was declared to have "No Evidence of Disease." Without warning, the cancer returned - this time in her liver - and she became a Stage 4 patient. After the first round of chemo for metastatic breast cancer, she opted out of further treatments and has decided to spend her remaining days in high-quality time with family and friends. The days are passing too quickly now. And I am already grieving.

Four years ago, as a very active senior, Adell went right back to her busy life, this time as a survivor. She  worked on projects affecting other seniors in her community: Meals on Wheels, the historical commission, and her local senior center. My Dad (87) and I met her through the weekly senior group that meets for a game day and lunch - she encouraged us to get out of the house, meet others, and socialize (instead of watching too much television by ourselves.) I had no idea how much her suggestion was to change our lives, and how much better it would be. The senior group that she was president of has grown to over 800 members and now has a restored historical building in which to meet. We simply can't talk about or think about the community of caring seniors without Adell!

She is not gone from us - not yet - but already I am sad. I am preparing to miss her, yet I just wrote her a letter thanking her for helping Dad and I get out of our doldrums. I look for her every time the senior center opens. We aren't related, but because of our breast cancer connection, she is my sister. And I know too much about what breast cancer does when it finds the liver, so I am going through anticipatory grief, and I don't like it.

Since time is passing too swiftly, I am telling Adell now how much she means to me. I am not waiting for the perfect moment. And I am not defining her by her diagnosis. She has made her own legacy, her own self-definition, by the selfless community work that she's done. She believes in a better life - after death - a belief that I share. Her persistent love for others will live on in this little community. That's something that cancer can't steal.

Grief, Loss, and Breast Cancer

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