Thursday, October 20, 2011

Think Pink: Day Leclaire and the "Blessing" of Breast Cancer

Day Leclaire is a legend and for me the kind of author who comes with a "the" in front of her name - THE Day Leclaire. This past June I had just returned from sightseeing in New York with Fiona Harper and we got a text from Jennie Lucas saying "meet us in the bar". When I got there I noticed a very relaxed, very lovely woman sitting a few seats away. I'm not sure who did it but someone said, "Donna, this is Day Leclaire."
I was so thrilled to meet her in person and was delighted to discover she was the sort of woman with whom I was instantly comfortable. I switched chairs and we had a great chat. And then I met up with her several times during the week. I am so very glad we got to meet. I'm happy that I can list her among my friends. :-)
When I first thought about having special guests on the blog this month, Michelle Styles said why don't you ask Day? I couldn't believe I hadn't thought of it before. I knew very well that Day had gone head to head with the disease. I don't think Day would mind if I say I simply forgot. Because Day isn't the kind of person to let breast cancer define her. And as you read on, you'll understand my relief when she assured me that I didn't stare at her boobs when we met...

Thanks for being here, Day. :-)

The “Blessing” of Breast Cancer

So, one of the things you hear when you’re diagnosed with breast cancer is “the blessing of cancer.”  Apparently there is one.  People keep claiming there is.  But I’ve never found it.  As far as I’m concerned, there is no blessing to having cancer.  There is fear.  A lot of it.  There is pain.  A lot of it.  There are endless doctors’ visits and tests.  A lot of them.  And then there’s fear.  More of it. 

For a long time I lived from test to test, making promises that if I could only get an all-clear on this test I’ll eat better, live better, be better, anything and everything if only I managed to survive the latest test without a reoccurrence.  The euphoria that comes when I’d get that all-clear is mind-blowing…until the fear creeps back into my life again as the next test draws closer.

My body isn’t the same since cancer.  And when I tell people I’ve had breast cancer, the first place their eyes flash is to my breasts.  Are they both still there?  (Yes.)  Are they the same size.  (No.)  Are you dying?  (News flash:  We all are.)

After 6 long months of treatment, I tried to get back to “normal” again, which is totally ridiculous since I never had it to begin with.  My creativity dried up—for three full years.  And people would act pleasantly surprised when I’d show up at writing conferences.  Since I wasn’t at last year’s, maybe I bit the dust.  They lean in and whisper, “Are you okay?”  This would be annoying if I couldn’t see from their expression that they were utterly sincere and totally concerned.  That they cared.

Something else strange happened to me.  I started meeting people who’d gone through what I had and would offer me comfort and advice.  I started meeting people newly diagnosed who were afraid and didn’t know what to do or how they’d get through the experience, and just wanted someone to tell them that they could and would survive the “blessing of cancer.”  I found I could talk about it, when before I just wanted to pretend it had never happened to me.  I met people who’d had close calls.  And after a while they weren’t people anymore, but friends.  Little by little I discovered that I could share my experiences with them and it actually helped them deal with what had been, what was happening, what would come.  And it helped me come to terms with the “blessing” that had been dropped on me.

Over time my fear diminished and I began to learn more about myself, my body and what I wanted out of life—even more importantly what I didn’t want.  I chose how to live my life versus allowing life to simply happen to me.  I became closer to the people who meant the most to me, quietly closed the door on people who were simply users and takers.  And I celebrated each day that brought me further from what was and closer to what is meant to be.

I’ve now been cancer free for ten years, eleven months and one week.  Most days I don’t even think about cancer.  I think about life and living it.  I’ve changed in those eleven years and I think it’s been for the better because I’ve been so much more aware of what life has to offer and how special—and fleeting—every moment is.  I love more completely.  I hug more exuberantly.  I cherish what I have and chase my dreams with more determination and enjoyment.  And I’m happy.  Truly happy.

Huh.  I still can’t say cancer has been a blessing.  But it sure has brought many blessings into my life.  Who knew?

Clearly Day's creativity is back in full swing! Here's the cover of her next release - isn't it gorgeous? And I love the title. You can visit her site at


  1. Wow Day - what an awe inspiring blog. Thanks for sharing. Caroline x

  2. Survivors stories are always so uplifting. Lovely to hear your story, Day. Great that you are an inspiration and source of courage for women who are battling with BC right now.

  3. Thanks for sharing with us. Too many women are going through what you are. I wish someone could figure out how it happens so it can be prevented.

    Morgan Mandel

  4. Good to see you, Liz! Happy to share. Morgan, when I was going through brest cancer, I wished with all my heart that I'd be the last woman to go through this. Caroline, I really do hope it inspires other women who are touched by this disease.

    Best, Day

  5. thank you for your honesty, Day. Your story has touched my heart. I'm so glad you were able to get your creativity back, and to know it has been over a decade since the scariest day of your life.