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Cancer is a Definition, not a Declaration

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Sue McCollum has taken a similar tack by designing a hand-blown glass globe covered with cobalt blue dots. The dots represent the blue dots doctors tattooed on her chest to mark where they wanted to direct radiation. And they came to represent a lifeline for McCollum.

Now McCollum donates the proceeds of the ornaments toward breast cancer research so it can be cured in her lifetime.

“I want to encourage people not just to be victims or survivors but to be proactive—to say we can do something,” she says. “We have exciting possibilities that it can come true in our lifetime. I say. ‘Why not now!’”

Ronile Robinson, meanwhile, looks at those same blue dot ornaments and sees them as a way to help women gain closure about their treatment.

“When I finished my treatment there was no closure. It was just done and off you go. I give these ornaments as a way to say, ‘It’s over.’”

There’s another component to healing here. And that’s Sun Valley’s outdoor environment, which survivors say offers a balm for the soul.

The green of the pine trees is a healing color, points out Sue McCollum, noting that some hospitals are even turning to green, rather than the traditional white.

“Just living in this beautiful, clean, pristine place helps you want to heal,” echoes Wendy Jaquet. “I tell myself all the time that I need to create time for myself and that I need to take advantage of the place in which we live and get outdoors and take a walk. I tell myself that I’m a survivor and that I need to continue to be a survivor.”

McCollum recalls how she always climbed a mountain on her birthday. On her first birthday following her diagnosis, her sons took her by the hand and led her up Proctor Hill.

“I was so weak I didn’t think I could make it, but they led me up, one on either side. It was such a special moment to me. Last year I made it up Baldy—what a big deal that was!”

The environment offers plenty of opportunity for quiet meditation and visualization, as well.

Harlig listened to her meditation tapes every day, repeating the mantra Richard Odom ended her yoga class with: “My body is strong. My mind is at peace.”
And she laughed every chance she got.

“I lost all my hair, my eyebrows, my eyelashes, even my arm hair. So I’d pencil on eyeliner. Then I’d get an itch, scratch my forehead and realize ‘I just rubbed off my eyebrow!’” she recalls.

“You don’t stop life because you get cancer. This is a speed bump in life. And you’ve got to go over it, around it. You’ve got to keep on with life.”

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