My friend, Kathy Kifer, is writing a romance novel about a woman battling breast cancer.
It sounds incongruous, those three words in the same sentence —romance and breast cancer —but, the war against breast cancer is fueled by love.
More than any other cancer, breast cancer, with its pink trademark color, stirs a flurry of warrior energy to rise against it, perhaps because the disease is an attack mainly against women, who are the bearers of so much that is kind, lovely and nurturing in our world.
In her soon-to-be-published book, Kifer’s heroine battles more than just her cancer. She must face off against the decline in self esteem felt by many women who lose a piece of themselves to the insidious disease. She must also confront her own mortality, and she must find her way to allow a man to love her exactly as she is.
The heroine’s tale is based on Kathleen’s own life, although she likes to point out that her real life hero— her husband Al — has stayed with her throughout her long and arduous journey to wellness, unlike the despicable husband in the story she’s crafting.
Kathy, who lives in Lewiston, told me recently that writing the story has allowed her to re-examine many aspects of her illness as she worked to bring her heroine to life on the page. Doing so, she’s learned things about herself that have come as a surprise.
Sometimes that’s uncomfortable, but Kathy is a mentor to others battling breast cancer, and she knows it’s always best to get all the issues out in the open where they can be examined, discussed and illuminated by the light of wisdom and understanding.
That’s one of the reasons my newspaper, the Niagara Gazette, is joining its sister papers, the Tonawanda News and the Lockport Journal, to create a special section in October devoted to matters of breast cancer.
As many know, October is breast cancer awareness month, and throughout the month there is a wide range of community activities to support and educate women and men fighting the disease and all of those who love them.
We hope this section will be comprehensive, detailing the personal stories of valiant battles and triumphant survivals. We also hope that it will share the cutting-edge news that is imperative for those in the trenches, like the fact that Mount St. Mary’s Hospital had a new sonogram machine installed Wednesday which gives the radiologists a huge advantage in finding small tumors in dense tissue. Or that their soon to be available MRI “breast coil,” an investment of $100,000, will be even more efficient at detection of breast cancer.
The chief of radiology at Mount St. Mary’s told me that the intent is to get state-of-the-art equipment into our region “so our women in Niagara County don’t have to feel there’s something better somewhere else.”
Over at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, spokesman Pat Bradley told me that we’ll be learning about the center’s dedication to breast cancer prevention, early diagnosis and treatment, as well as some new cancer services they will be offering, and their community outreach efforts including a breast cancer support group established by and for breast cancer survivors.
Our plan for this special section, the largest joint effort ever undertaken by our three papers, is to combine the most recent technological news with personal stories to educate, inspire and, in a perfect world, contribute in some small way to what the Susan G. Komen organization calls the “race to the cure.”
We’re seeking personal accounts of heroism and love found among those who have engaged in the good fight. We hope to share them, including those written in the memory of those who have died, especially if we can learn from or be inspired by their stories.
If my colleagues and I do this as well as we hope, the section will be a tool that serves all who are contending with breast cancer.
And, like the heroine in Kathy Kifer’s romance novel, it is my hope that those whose lives have been touched by the disease will feel the love and support of an entire community, as they set their sights on a happy ending.