Bad to the bone

She’s right around 40 years old.  KT is an accomplished scientist, skilled program manager, and warm human being.  And she’s absolutely beautiful.  We started working together last June on a high visibility project, and found lots of things in common.  The least of which was breast cancer. 

Hers was the bad kind.  An aggressive version hit her 14 years ago while she was in her late 20’s.  She stomped on it hard – with major surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.  Not an easy journey, but she put it behind her – continued to work throughout her treatment. 

i didn’t know her well then, but remember being blown away by the fact that she was there… doing her job while staring down the barrel of a loaded gun. i remember seeing her in the hallways, this beautiful young woman, bald as a cue ball, wearing fabulous outfits – with matching hats and headgear.

Last month she learned that it wasn’t a pinched nerve, or a torn rotator cuff in her shoulder causing numbness and pain.  “Lesions”.  That means “tumors”.  She told me in early December because there could be some impact to the program should she face something serious.  Optimistic for good news, but realistic enough to know what “lesions on the bone” meant.

As we started a meeting in late December – KT, me and another program manager – she provided an update.  That week – following more testing – she learned that her cancer has returned.  Here’s what she said:

“There’s good news and bad news.  The bad news is that my cancer is back.  The good news is that it’s only in my bones.  If it were in my organs, we’d be talking weeks.  Since it’s just in my bones, we’re talking years… It’s treatable, but not curable.”

From there?  Rational discussion of treatment plan, as well as her take on what it might mean for her part of the program.  She intends to work through, although she’ll be discussing some re-balancing of workload to remove the things that bring extra stress. 

After a brief discussion of how she’d like things handled with the rest of the team, we got down to the business at hand.  The meeting lasted about an hour, and she was actively engaged, and clearly tracking everything going on… Even some laughs.

To be in the presence of such a woman is truly humbling.  As with the BLT, you can learn so much about a person by how they deal with the nastiest shit that life hacks up.  The stuff that tests your soul.  You’re either living or you’re dying.  You have a choice.

She faced her own mortality 14 years ago, and was prepared to die.  In our prior conversation, when she learned of the “lesions”, she said “I know what my body can take.  I know much of what lies ahead.  I know that I can continue to work through chemo and radiation.” 

Now, ladies?  Get your fucking mammograms.  Cut out the excuses.  Yeah, it hurts.  Big deal.  i guarantee you it hurts a lot less than the gauntlet KT is now running.  Again…  So you’re afraid of knowing?  Get over yourself and do it for the people who love you.  No excuses.