She Said. He Said. I Said.

Q & A, Survivor January 7, 2017

Judy Pearson
Triple Negative Breast Cancer, 5 year survivor
Founder, A2ndAct.org

My family and I are quote junkies. Movies, famous people, corny jokes or one another: we never miss an opportunity to infuse them into our daily lives. I can think of no better way to write this blog than by using some favorite quotes.

1. “We could never learn to be brave and patient, if there were only joy in the world.” – Helen Keller

Without a doubt, a cancer diagnosis is a very dark moment all by itself. But there are a million other things affected by it. At my diagnosis, I was a newlywed and my eldest son (a career Air Force intelligence agent) was about to deploy to Afghanistan. I gave my new husband permission to leave, not knowing what the future held for me. And I was terrified he’d take me up on it. Equally frightening was my son’s safety, which actually overshadowed my own fear of death.

But as the above quote suggests, my wonderful husband not only stayed, he was my absolute rock, then and now. My son and I communicated often across the thousands of miles. We wrote about fighting our individual enemies, and winning our individual wars. The best news – we both survived. And I saw qualities in those two men I never realized before. Really good ones!

2. “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!” – a really corny elephant joke

Things sometimes seem to take forever: getting to high school graduation, a pregnancy, climbing the corporate ladder. Even harder is enduring a lengthy, truly unpleasant situation. But having the luxury of looking over my shoulder at six decades, I now see that most things pass more quickly than we realize, even the bad ones. If we an break them into smaller segments and tackle them one step at a time, they become far more manageable.

Most importantly, I would have wanted my pre-cancer self to understand how precious life is. And that wishing away time is just that: wishing away those precious moments of life. Spring boarding from the elephant quote is something I frequently share with people: “Not forever, just for now.” I’m the author of that one, but it, too, makes us realize that just as most things have an identifiable beginning, they also often have an end point. Identifying it makes the journey more tolerable.

3. “Only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars…” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

My cancer survivorship has introduced me to amazing people I would otherwise never have known. And they, in turn, have taught me things I would never have learned. As a result, I’m a richer woman. When I look at the world around me, I see beautiful vistas, bluer skies and brighter stars.

I appreciate every breath I take, and will never again take those breaths for granted. And if today was my last day, there is treasure in all wreckage, even cancer.

4. “To the world you may be one person; but to one person you may be the world.” – Dr. Seuss

A2ndAct.org is my 2nd Act. Understanding from previous research that there is healing in helping, my idea was to publicize as many survivors’ 2nd Acts as possible. Much like the shampoo commercial of the ’70’s, I trusted in exponential growth: that each story would inspire other survivors to do the same. And I’m happy to say it’s working!

5. “Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” – Buddha

Without a doubt, watching the growth of A2ndAct.org has been one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done. Each cast has become a little microcosm that attracts more survivors to it like moths to a flame.

These women inspire me as much as they inspire one another. As one survivor told me, “You’re the mother duck and we’re your ducklings. We just want to keep following you!” What a humbling position to be in.

6. “It will be alright in the end. If it is not alright, it is not yet the end.” – Deborah Moggach, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”

To be perfectly honest, everything IS alright, right now! But I certainly have goals for the organization, and some of them are pretty lofty. However, I’ve lived enough life to know that there are always disappointments and set backs (refer to quote #1!).

My goal is to continue nurturing and growing the organization in a carefully planned with, with room for a few surprises to keep it interesting! A2ndAct.org will develop fully in each city before we take on another. We’ll learn from our mistakes and bask in the glow of our successes.

The idea of creating a worldwide village of survivors who have not only grown stronger because of their 2nd Acts, but who have bettered the world around them with their 2nd Acts would be a dream come true.

7. “Do small things with great love.” – Mother Teresa

While all of the quotes I’ve listed are favorites, this is the one that guides my life. I am not famous. I am not wealthy in a material way. But I’m rich in the way that counts. Everything I do and everyone I touch is based on these words with the belief that they, too, will experience exponential growth! And so the story continues ….

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