To all of you dancing in the sunshine

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Theirs is a quiet demonstration of the best in human nature: a willingness to endure treatments, a determination to find the good hours in bad days, and sometimes the good moments in endless bad hours. They all have an ironic sense of humor, and it helps.

One friend, who lives out of state, called me late one night to say she’d just found out she had breast cancer. She hadn’t told any family or friends; she wanted to get more information first, and she thought I could offer some information about what happens next. Remarkably, the day of her biopsy, she went to play bridge . . . and she won points! She joked about losing 4 pounds from worry. This woman is no dummy, but she is able to summon energy to begin finding her way through this experience without losing herself.

We have a quiet network, those of us who have gone through something. If you need your hip replaced, you know whom to call to find out how the recovery will really go. If you get breast cancer, unfortunately, there are hundreds of women in our communities who can offer tips about getting through the diagnosis and treatment process. Who was your surgeon? How was the radiation? Where do I buy a wig?

I had my guide. She just stepped up and sent emails and fielded my endless questions and talked straight and skipped the fluff. Then along came another friend, a man who’d had cancer many years back, and he just dropped by the house one day and began talking. He stayed in the loop, and when I asked him how he managed to seem so collected in his worst times, he said, “No one saw me at 4 in the morning.”

Another long-distance friend said that during the most dreadful days of her treatment for metastatic cancer, she would go down to the beach and find peace in the sweep of the water and wind and blue skies. I liked that; it was good advice.

I write about this because, as Arthur Miller wrote, “Attention must be paid.” Not just to the charity tournaments and the marathons and the fundraising — all of which are helpful — but to the people we see every day who are so inspiring. I never much liked the term “survivor” because it seems presumptuous to me. I prefer “warrior,” and I know some of my buddies are in the trenches.
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