By Steve Zimmerman, Tribune Newspapers
9:14 PM EDT, September 25, 2013
I've only been at the Tribune for a few years, but there's one project I always volunteer for: to design the Breast Cancer Awareness section. Why? My wife, my mother-in-law, and my daughter.
Breast cancer intruded into our family in 2005 when my wife's mother, Amelia, was diagnosed. She immediately shrugged it off as a twist of fate and didn't show much fear of what came next. It was bold indifference I could never have. Nevertheless, it changed our lives in many ways. It pushed my wife, Christina, and I to have our first child, Eva. We thought the timing was right, and it would give her mom something — or someone — to look forward to as she underwent the rigors of chemotherapy. Her first grandchild could be her light at the end of the tunnel.
Fast forward to the present, Amelia's cancer is in remission, and Eva is 6 and every bit as confident as her grandmother. She's got the same quirks, fondness for elaborate dresses and all things pink.
A breast cancer diagnosis didn't consume Amelia or Christina. It was treated as any other medical hurdle that people overcome, including those in her own family. Her husband, Christina's dad, has Agent Orange-induced diabetes, and her son, my brother-in-law Michael, has hearing loss that requires hearing aids in both ears. My dad has endured two surgeries in his battle with glaucoma. Does it slow any of them down? Nope, not this family. We're not boxers, but we are fighters.
I try to remember that spirit every time I see a pink ribbon on a lapel or a hear of a fund-raising walk, and it's why I volunteer to design the Tribune's Breast Cancer Awareness section. It's about awareness, hope and treatment. But more than that, its about bravery. Amelia's story didn't involve made-for-TV moments or stirring speeches. Her fight was quiet, personal and matter of fact. It was as if she saw the ugly face of cancer, shrugged, glared, and waved it off like an annoying fly. That attitude perfectly sums up Amy, who was born in the Philippines and was fittingly named after Amelia Earhart. Her spirit is reflected in Christina and Eva — Eva Amelia as the birth certificate states. They all exude a stubborn brand of bravery that — at this time of year — I feel very thankful lies deep within them.
Just in case cancer intrudes into our life again.
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