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On Hearing the News of a Cancer Recurrence

by Rosalie Dow

So I'm not made of stone after all. Years of therapy when I cried to show my fleshy vulnerability to the world - watch what you wish for! With this diagnosis, I became visibly mortal - fodder for everyone's fears. Friends who'd called me Ms. Lucky stepped back for a new astonished inspection.

To me, it seemed almost a relief, as if I'd been waiting for my turn to come. Of course, I expected to get through it, do my time, and take my place as a long time survivor. I didn't doubt that, even after all the complications, extra surgeries, and multiple therapies. When all seemed over, after ten long months, I got ready to resume my place as "Ms. Still-lucky but wiser."

Now I'm finally getting it. There's no grand plan, just lots of stuff life tosses at us. I'll probably never get this monkey off my back, just have to get used to its weight.

Cancer has the power to intimidate. We don't see it, so the stealth factor makes a really strong defense impossible. Catch it here and it pops up somewhere completely unexpected. Endometrial cancer in my lungs - how ridiculous! How mortifying - as if I don't know my elbow from my ass. Yet, I'm bearing the treatments well, and I've come to appreciate everything I have, especially my husband. We never have heavy talks about cancer. We just get through each day.

And when I woke a few days ago, the thought passed through my mind that I'm the luckiest woman alive. I caught it - laughed - then decided it's still true.

Born in New York, Rosalie and her husband moved to San Diego more than ten years ago to be close to their children and grandchildren. In 2006, Rosalie retired from a career in publishing to devote her time to travel, family and the progressive feminist causes to which she had dedicated most of her adult life. In early 2007, she was diagnosed with endometrial cancer and fought a hard and inspiring battle. Sadly, she passed away this June.