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My Breast Cancer Surival Story: Teaching By Example

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Back in the day, when I was in ninth grade at Malcolm Campbell High School in Montreal, I played the flute in the high school senior band. Miss Gold, our band leader/teacher and a very involved and active conductor, was always looking for opportunities for our band to flourish and perform our magic.

One of the opportunities we had was to do a band exchange with a school in Belleville, N.J., not far from New York City. It was during that time that I met Joanne and Donna, students and musicians at Belleville High School. They came to Montreal for a few days and both girls came to stay at my family home. When it was our turn to go to New Jersey, I stayed with Joanne's family.

We put on concerts, went sightseeing and had a few parties. It was everything a 15-year-old travelling with a very cool and mother-like band leader and a busload of her fellow band members could imagine. I had a wonderful time, and the hospitality of my American family was warm and generous. Friendship bonds were made and remained strong over a number of years, where the only means of keeping in touch was good old snail mail.

As with most things in life, we fell out of touch. Life has a way of twisting and turning, and some people stay along the winding road. Others do not. All of us went on to higher education, met our significant others and started families.

And that's where most people would end their stories... in the sad limbo of life where you never really get to know what happened in the lives of their good friends.

But the unexpected happened a few years ago, when Joanne and Donna found me on Facebook. We were thrilled and grateful to have found one another again. This was followed with a long phone call with Joanne, where we caught up with each other and the successes, as well as the trials and tribulations in our lives. We have seen pictures of each others' children and now share the successes of their lives as well.

And this happy story is a very longwinded way for me to get to the point of today's blog. I have always believed, and, yes, pontificated (there will be a few eye rolls here) about how important it is to teach children through our actions. Words are cheap sometimes and simply saying "I love you" or "I'm sorry" without showing it through actions and intentions will not allow that message to strike home. Children are very observant. They watch and hear more than any grown up or parent can imagine.

The way we conduct our lives and the way we treat people is the ultimate lesson for those following in our footsteps. My friend Joanne is one of those examples. She has brought up two girls who have learned and continue to learn from her generosity and the number of hours she gives freely of her time.

The result? Her daughter, Jenna, just donated 10 inches of her hair for Pantene, who is accepting these donations in Canada in order to make wigs for those going through breast cancer treatment. When Joanne contacted me yesterday to let me know, I was so touched. She told me that Jenna had a particular interest, partly because she knows of her mother's link to her Canadian friend and her journey through breast cancer.

This is but a mere drop in the sea of generous donations that are made to the cause on a daily basis. But to me, it is like gold. The importance of such a gesture is indicative of the nature of the leadership that surrounds her, and the compassion she has in her heart for people who are suffering. At a time where most pre-teens and teenagers are worried about things like getting the newest electronic gadget or getting their hair and makeup just so, it's nice to see that there are young people in the generations that are following ours that are aware of the impact that cancer, or other chronic diseases has on a family and loved ones. The drastic change in in her image by cutting off ten inches of her hair is something that would be stressful for someone her age, and it takes a lot of will to overcome the anxiety she would have had, in order to offer such a precious gift.

So to Joanne and Jenna, as well as all those who are, or who have wonderful role models in their lives, I say thanks. On behalf of all breast cancer patients, and those who have survived and know the importance of such a gesture, we are grateful beyond words. Your action says it all.

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