The post you are reading is not the way this project was supposed to begin.
My friend Julie and I had talked about a project with the working title: “Coupla Sick Chicks” (with apologies to the 1981 play, “A Coupla White Chicks Sitting Around Talking”). But we had no concrete plans. That’s what the meeting last Wednesday in a Kansas coffee shop was all about. I’m a nine-year survivor of stage III ovarian cancer, and my longtime friend Julie Levine is also a cancer survivor.
I only brought the camera to show Julie how it works. I brought a yellow legal pad. I was just going to take notes this meeting. But to my surprise, Julie, the consummate computer illiterate, grabbed the camera and began talking about Elizabeth Edwards, who’d died the day before.
“I’ve got to say this now,” Julie said, “while it’s fresh in my mind.”
In 2008 Julie was your typical soccer mom from a nice family, now raising another nice family of her own. Former elementary-school teacher, wife to a physician and a stay-at-home mom to their three children. There was no cancer in Julie’s family. She was trim. She exercised.
And she had not a mean bone in her body. When her husband called me two years ago with bad news, I said, “Julie is the nicest person I’ve ever known.” He replied, “I know. I know.”
In May of 2008, at age 47, Julie was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer.
I remember the way I used to fume about the lack of a screening test for ovarian cancer. Breast breast breast! Is there anyone on the planet NOT aware of breast cancer? My ovarian tumor was over ten centimeters! When was the last time you ever heard of a breast tumor that was ten centimeters?”
And eight months later, Julie joined the “2nd Primary” club — lung cancer, although she never smoked. It makes me angry that I even have to say that, since smokers and former smokers need just as much help and compassion as people who never smoked. But such is the world in which we live.
Hopefully, in the future, the Coupla Sick Chicks plan to make better, more professional videos. We plan to talk about how cancer has changed our families, our work and our sense of ourselves. Some of them might even show up on WomanUP.
In the meantime, this is our rough beginning. We apologize for the technical flaws. In memory of Elizabeth Edwards, Julie Levine and I dedicate our humble video.
[originally published by Politics Daily in 2010]