Cancer wears a personal face.
When the late columnist Lisa Pierot was diagnosed at age 37 with breast cancer, she was given a 95 percent cure rate. At the time of her the diagnosis, she was married with two daughters, owned and ran a mortgage company, lived on a beautiful island and had - as she described - the perfect life.
Two years into this positive prognosis, cancer had spread to the bone. Pierot went from being a breast cancer patient with the best chance of survival, to being a breast cancer patient with terminal cancer.
During the next nine years, she endured chemotherapy, a stem-cell transplant, hormone therapy and radiation. Both her mother and sister were diagnosed with breast cancer. Pierot sold her share of the business and left her home on the island.
Many of us walked this journey with Pierot. Soon after her diagnosis, she began writing columns for therapy - her experiences living with cancer and all the changes cancer can bring to a life. Most of those columns appeared in The Palm Beach Post and many in the Sanibel-Captiva Islander. E-mails and letters from readers became her lifeline at the end of her days.
She often wrote how her readers gave her a sense of purpose, as she faced her toughest battles: Grief over losing her mother to cancer, the knowledge that her own cancer had returned in her liver, and confronting an addiction to painkillers that strained her relationship with her daughters.
One of her columns - written after the cancer had returned and she had decided to discontinue treatment - read, in part: "And then, slowly, happiness came. It was not a kind of happiness I had experienced before. It didn't depend on what I was doing or whom I was with. I didn't need to prove anything anymore, not to myself and not to anyone else. I gave myself permission to live the rest of my life on my own terms. Finally I understood what it meant to be a survivor. The journey, at last, had brought me home. And as it turns out, home truly is where the heart is."
In early March 2006, Lisa Pierot lost her battle with cancer. While staying at her father's house, she passed away in her sleep.
Pierot was 48.
Most of us are aware of the massive efforts being put forth by any number of organizations to educate about and raise funds for breast cancer awareness and prevention.
The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, for example, pulls in both men and women to its efforts - and their children. FordCares.com has involved at least one popular television program and its actors/characters - "Grey's Anatomy." Avon has, over the last 16-plus years, raised and awarded more than $585 million in 50 countries worldwide for awareness and education, screening and diagnosis, access to treatment, for support services and scientific research. And locally, Sanibel Beauty Salon offers educational and fundraising opportunities year 'round.
All of these efforts have touched women, their fathers, their husbands and their sons everywhere.
Next week, the Sanibel City Council will hold an educational session about Breast Cancer Awareness on Tuesday, Oct. 6 beginning at 8:15 a.m. in MacKenzie Hall prior to the regular meeting, where a proclamation declaring October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month will be read.
Mary Ann Loh, a volunteer who is the Education Chair for the Southwest Florida Affiliate of Susan G. Komen For the Cure, will be the guest speaker. The Sanibel resident has a Master's degree in Nursing and has spent her entire career providing health education.
This event is open to the public. All breast cancer survivors, as well as all those wishing to know more about breast cancer prevention and treatment for themselves or their loved ones, are invited to attend.
We urge all of our readers to do so.
- Reporter editorial