People Staff
November 16, 1998 12:00 PM

Surviving Breast Cancer

Thank you! Four weeks ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 45 and am currently receiving radiation therapy. It has been so very easy for me to concentrate just on the negatives surrounding breast cancer. Your positive article featured women who have not only survived it but survived well, determined to live life to the fullest. It was just what I needed—desperately. For the first time in years of reading PEOPLE, I feel an article was written just for me. There aren’t enough words to express my gratitude.

Candace Meyers Webster, Saline, Mich.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in April, and my mother died of the disease five years ago after two mastectomies and metastasis to her brain. I found your article very positive, but I’m appalled that you could devote 19 pages to breast cancer and not once mention Linda McCartney. Her very private struggle with this disease is more indicative of the reality that many women face, in spite of pharmacological and surgical advances. People die from breast cancer. By failing to acknowledge that this is a fight that cannot always be won, I fear you have served to perpetuate the myth that breast cancer is nothing more than an inconvenience. I wouldn’t trade my experience with breast cancer for anything. It has been a small price to pay for the people I have met, the friendships that have blossomed and the positive changes in my perspective on life. But I still worry that I won’t see my son graduate from high school. That’s my reality.

Jane Larson, Eden Prairie, Minn.

PEOPLE has taken a giant step toward removing the fear that prevents many women from getting early diagnosis. If just one woman reads this article and decides to get that lump checked, you have moved mountains.

Marla B. Pence, Bonita, Calif.

I ran across your issue about an hour after I was told I had breast cancer. I’m 44 and had my first mammogram in February, but the tumor didn’t show up. I was lazy about doing the self-exams, so it was by accident that I ran across the lump when it was already four centimeters. I hope your article will make more women wake up to the possibilities before it’s too late. I wish I had.

Vala Rich, Edmonds, Wash.

I was one year beyond when I should have had my mammogram. I kept putting it off. Too busy with kids, work, etc. I read the article and it struck me that this disease does not discriminate as to age or race. I went the next day and had my mammogram. If you reach one person, this article was worth it. I hold you in a new regard.

Anne Grenner, Bellevue, Wash.

As the son of a mother who died of cancer and was buried the day before my 16th birthday, and the husband of a wife who has survived 19 years after surgery for melanoma, your article took my breath away. I just called my wife at work and told her to hurry home so I can hug her and tell her how precious she is. Thanks for one of the best issues ever!

Alan Booton, Carlisle, Iowa

I take great exception to Julia Child’s comments. I am 33, and I was 30 when diagnosed. It was far more complicated than “lopping off” my breast. Yes, Julia, for me it is the end of the world. Aside from having two kids, 6 and 8, I have undergone a mastectomy, chemo, a bone-marrow transplant, radiation, recurrence, more chemo, metastasis to the liver and bone, more chemo, another marrow transplant and more surgeries. Now, once again, my cancer has come back. So for many people it is not simply a matter of lopping off your boob and getting on with your life.

Kim Farrell, via e-mail

While your article was uplifting and encouraging, I found it failed to recognize that breast cancer is not just a disease for women over 40. I was 32 when diagnosed two years ago as one of the ever-increasing population of young women with breast cancer. I find there are few publications that acknowledge us and our age-specific problems of breast removal, prosthetics and dealing with the unknown future. The nationwide campaign for breast-cancer education is wonderful, but we must also educate that it’s not just your grandma’s disease anymore.

Geri Kohler, Panama City, Fla.

There was not one word about male breast cancer, which, while rare, does happen. I have just had a very dear male friend go through surgery and chemo to deal with it. Breast cancer is just as deadly for men as it is for women, and the earlier it’s treated the better. It needs to be brought out of the shadows so that men know it’s nothing to be ashamed of. If anyone finds a lump, male or female, seek help—please!

Darline Geiger, Summertown, Tenn.

The most beautiful people are the women on this cover, who represent brave ladies everywhere!

Melinda James, Dallas

Don & Carol Biesinger

Did Don and Carol Biesinger take the time to edit out the scene in Titanic in which Rose’s fiancé smacks her across the face or when her fiancé’s “man” tries to kill Rose and Jack? I believe someone in Hollywood once said, “Kiss a breast and you get an NC-17; whack off a breast and you get an R.”

Kim Mendus, Wyandotte, Mich.

My mother always let us know that she would allow us to see sex scenes in a movie far sooner than violence. If I were the Biesingers, I would spend less time worrying about normal human body parts and emotions and more time worrying about my children seeing a man commit suicide by pistol, another man shot to death and a woman being subjugated with violence.

Barbara Bouchard, Wales, Mass.

When I was 9 my parents took me to see Saturday Night Fever. During the scene when Bobby C. jumps off a bridge, my mom covered my eyes with her sweater. When West Side Story was on TV, my parents had me leave the room during the gang-fight scene until they felt I was old enough to watch it. How hard is that? If parents watched movies with their children, they wouldn’t have to hire these puritanical techno-babysitters.

Louise I. Rosenberg, New York City

As the mother of four children, I cannot tell you how many times I have wished for a scaled-down version of a movie I think my children would want to see. I too have wanted studios to put out G-or PG-rated copies of PG-13 or R-rated movies. I would gladly pay $5 for this service.

Julia Dixon, Key West, Fla.

Carrie Perucca does not want her children to see the part of Titanic that shows Kate Winslet‘s breasts but has no problem with her children seeing hundreds of people drowning and freezing to death. With respect to Ms. Perucca introducing her children to history, I would suggest that, over the course of time, women’s breasts have probably had far more of an impact on the course of history than the sinking of one ship.

Jacob N. Polatin, Waban, Mass.

Eric McCormick

Why is it that television executives feel the American people are ready for two gay male characters in Will & Grace, but last year they didn’t feel we were ready for one lesbian in Ellen? Are two gay men funnier than one lesbian? As a lesbian I would like to see more shows that deal with subject matter relevant to my daily life. Maybe someday the American people will be ready for that.

Name Withheld

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