Killed by cancer.
I have thought about Bridget a lot these last two months because I have been asked to speak about her often. At her funeral, at several conferences, and most recently at the Komen Leadership Conference a few weeks ago. I wanted to share a short experience.
During my presentation, I said something to the effect of “Like my mother, Bridget was killed by cancer.” Through the bright stage lights I could see the first few rows of the audience. Everyone stiffened when I said the word “killed.” I wasn’t going to make much of it but I saw that I had made everyone in the audience uncomfortable, so I paused for a moment.
I said, I use the word “killed” deliberately. I believe language is powerful; that language dictates our actions, and our actions shape the world. When we say someone “died of cancer” we are basically admitting that “dying of cancer” is an acceptable, normal state of affairs. We are saying, in essence, “people die for many reasons, and cancer is one of them.”
I disagree to the core of my soul. Cancer kills people. No one should die of it. If we harnessed enough of our money and technology and talent, we could make it preventable. I do not accept the worldview that it is a natural form of demise, and neither should you, because it isn’t true.
Thank you Bridget, and thanks Mom, and thanks to my family friend Nick, and thanks to everyone out there who made the ultimate sacrifice to help the rest of us get our priorities in order. Bridget, more than anything, is a reminder to me of the work we have to do. And why it is worth doing.