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A Different Take on Breast Cancer

by Liza Vann

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People say I have a different take on this disease – that I didn’t do it like everyone else. You see, it didn’t seem to bother me that I had cancer. Cancer doesn’t have to be harder than anything else that will ever happen to you. Having cancer doesn’t have to be harder than not having cancer. It’s just different. It just is what it is.

Which leads me to a confession, I was never afraid of this disease. I have not spent one nanosecond being afraid of this disease. And, in truth, I don’t really understand it. Of course, I understand the concept, but I have never known any woman – or any person for that matter – who was ever helped by fear, who wasn’t better the moment she put it be­hind her. Now that doesn’t mean deny it. If anything, acknowledge it immediately, but don’t think that fear is inevitable.

Confession: I have not spent one nanosecond being afraid of this disease.

You might be afraid, but you don’t have to be. There has never been a better time to have breast cancer. Our tools for detection are better. Our treatment options are better. And I can’t tell you how happy I was when The New England Journal of Medicine finally published a study that showed our surgical options are better. It’s no longer one-size-fits-all; we have a shopping mall full of good choices.

But before heading into that shopping mall of choices, a word of caution – no impulse buying. Think of how many shoes you try on to find that right pair. You might not want to “shop ‘til you drop,” but you definitely don’t want to take the first pair off the rack.

Wait a minute. Cancer is like a shop­ping trip to the mall? Close enough. Cancer is doable. It’s just another turn in the road. Sure, it’s a turn anyone would prefer to bypass, but not one that will keep you from getting on down the highway.

But that’s just my take.

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Liza Vann is an actress and speaker, most recently seen in the off-Broadway hit Good Ol’ Girls. A recipient of the Clarence Ross Fellowship from the American Theatre Wing, she has performed extensively in re­gional theater, as well as abroad. Visit Liza at

This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, March/April 2012.