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Out and About: "It is what it is"

"It is what it is," the woman said to me as she shrugged her shoulders. "It is what it is.

"It is what it is," the woman said to me as she shrugged her shoulders.

"It is what it is."

She fidgeted in her seat, turning her long, blue and green beaded necklace over and over again in her hands as she opened her heart and shared her story - the good and the bad - with a complete stranger.

"I retired in December of 2001 and in March of 2002, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had a mastectomy and then I started chemo therapy."

As she continued to share her story, filled with the ups and downs she experienced over the past eight-and-a-half years, there were times I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness for this women, this mother, this wife.

But then there were times - times which completely caught me off guard - where I felt a strong sense of admiration for her.

You see, this woman had battled through breast cancer. Like many other women - who she refers to as a 'Sisterhood' - she underwent a double mastectomy, reconstructive surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. She lost all the hair on her body, except for one stubborn dark hair where her eyebrows used to be.

"I said the hair was stubborn, just like me," she said with a laugh.

Once she was cancer-free, this courageous woman decided to share her experience with others as she realized her approach to the disease may be able to help other women.

"It is what it is," she said again.

Cancer, that is.

From the moment she was diagnosed with the disease, she had decided not to worry about it. Not ever. It - cancer - was out of her control and she knew worrying would only make things harder on her and her family.

Like I said, a great source of admiration.

As she continued to share her story with me, I came to understand her cancer was back. Back bad.

This time it was bone cancer.

"When I go, it's going to be very painful. I'm not looking forward to it," she said.

When I go? Yes, when she goes.

The fact she could even think of it in those terms blew me away. I am unable to accept the fact my life on earth will come to an end one day, so there would be no way I would be able to accept that something as terrifying and painful as cancer could end my life.

But her outlook and ability to see cancer as, "it is what it is," takes some of cancer's power away. And I think that is an important thing to remember.

When loved ones are diagnosed with cancer, we often give the disease more power than it deserves. We fret about it and how hard it's going to be, instead of enjoying the time we do have with our loved ones. We should be more concerned with making new memories with them to ensure that, even if they do lose their battle with cancer, they will continue to live on in the memories we created.

In fact, we should be living this way even if our loved ones are not battling a disease. We should always wake up in the morning, ready to create new memories with the people in our lives so that if they are taken from us suddenly, we'll still have those memories to hold on to.

If we lived our lives in the today, instead of dwelling on the "what ifs" of tomorrow, we would lead much happier and fulfilling lives. I can see that now. Thanks to this woman.

In the event this women ever reads this column, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for being so open with me. You are right, it is difficult to talk to someone when you know they are living with cancer, but you made me feel at immediately at ease. I want to thank you for sharing your "it is what it is" perspective on life. I hope you continue to find solace in this perspective and know you are helping many people, whether they're battling through cancer or not, by sharing your story.

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