Like many people my age, I didn’t pay too much attention to Betty Ford when she was the First Lady. It was during my teen aged years, and she was part of that whole Watergate, Vietnam War, Nixon scandal era, at a time when I was much more interested in other things.
But one thing that I do remember quite clearly was Mrs. Ford’s mastectomy. Her breast cancer was public and she was completely matter of fact about it. Here’s what is going on, here is what I had done, let’s move on. For that time, it was amazing. No one talked about breast cancer. If you heard about it at all, it seemed as if it was only if someone had died of it – a neighbor or a relative. And here was Betty Ford, telling us to get checked and that a mastectomy wasn’t the end of the world. She was a 35 year breast cancer survivor.
In the 80’s there were other brave souls who moved breast cancer out of the dark. I remember seeing “shocking” photos published in magazines of women brave enough to exhibit their mastectomy scars. Of women without hair from chemo treatments who laughed and showed that they were still vibrant, viable women. The photos weren’t shocking. They were beautiful.
In the 90’s, breast cancer started coming closer to home for me, with two friends getting diagnosed when we were in our 30’s. Irene and Dorothy both lost their fights in the past ten years.
So for me, I have benefited tremendously from those who have gone before me, showing me how to fight, and how to live with this disease.
Thanks to all of you, but especially you, Betty Ford.