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Sturman: Summer Of C's

10/25/11 7:55AM By Skip Sturman
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(Host)  October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and commentator Skip Sturman has been thinking that Tropical Storm Irene and his wife's diagnosis of breast cancer had much in common, as each natural disaster generated an outpouring of love and support for its victims.

(Sturman)  Last spring, my wife and I were eagerly looking forward to a Summer of "C's": a much anticipated sisters' weekend at the Cape, canoeing at the cottage we rent, eating corn on the cob, climbing Camel's Hump. However, when I look back on the summer just passed, the 'C' word which looms largest in my memory is hearing that my wife has breast 'cancer'.

In retrospect, perhaps we shouldn't have been so surprised by how quickly our Summer of "C's" changed course. After all, according to the National Cancer Institute, "12% percent or 1 in 8 women born in the United States today will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some time in their lives." And my wife was at the exact median age when breast cancer is most routinely diagnosed.

And yet, like victims of Hurricane Irene, we initially had difficulty comprehending the fact that a quiet tributary could turn, in a matter of minutes, into a raging river. Or, in our case, that a lump which hardly registered on a mammogram, in a matter of weeks would necessitate several surgeries and chemotherapy. Clearly, our lives were also turned upside down by a storm which we just didn't see coming.

What surprises me most is how utterly unprepared we were to have Cancer appear on our doorstep. Oh, to be sure, we had seen him before, accosting loved ones and catching countless friends, unawares. Still, we had never confronted Cancer face-to-face ourselves. For us, Cancer had remained a shadowy figure on the periphery of our existence.

The strange thing is that once you, grudgingly, open your door to Cancer, you realize how omnipresent and ubiquitous he really is in the landscape of our lives. Once my wife had been diagnosed, the 'C' word suddenly seemed to appear everywhere we turned. 'Cancer' popped up on billboards and in casual conversations, on television and on radio.

Still, scary as cancer is, in the distant future, when we look back on our Summer of "C's", the 'C' words which we will remember best are the "community of caregivers" who seemingly mobilized out of thin air to see us through our ordeal.

Like the army of volunteers who came together to lend sustenance and support to hurricane victims, our special Vermont army of caregivers included loving family members, longtime friends and neighbors, co-workers and casual acquaintances alike. In our Summer of "C's", meals and phone calls, cards and e-mails, rained down upon us daily, showering us with love and courage.

And blueberries, lots and lots of blueberries. Blueberry muffins and blueberry soup, blueberry pie and blueberry buckle cake.

In hindsight, maybe it was prescient that we chose "Cherish" as our wedding song. After all, "cherish" is "the word that more than applies" as we count our blessings, looking back on our Summer of "C's".
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