A Journey of a Million Steps
Ten years ago I was told that I had six months to live. After discovering a lump under my right arm (on my 10th wedding anniversary), I underwent a biopsy and was advised by the oncologist that my prognosis was dim; stage 2 breast cancer that was aggressive with slim margins. My first thought was focused solely on my two young children - Ben who was 8 and Samantha who was 5 - how would they grow without a mother to foster them? What would happen to them considering my marriage was falling apart - who would they live with? Determined to stay alive, I told the doctors at Sloan Kettering to do whatever it took; cut off my arms, take away my breasts, remove my uterus. That is what they did; they took away everything that physically made me a woman. What they were unable to do was take away what emotionally and intellectually made me a female - the sense of wonder I had when watching my kids laugh, the beauty of conversation with other women, the simple awareness of the world around me and my part in it. While the fight for the next two years proved tough (and continues to this day), the resolution to do something positive with the new Ellen was strong. Now ten years later I have changed my life. I have gone from being an attorney (a job I hated) to being a professor (a job I love). I have moved from being silent to being an outspoken activist for the rights of the silenced, including women in conflict areas. Although not necessarily a religious one, I have found my calling in classrooms both here in America and in sub-Saharan Africa.
Having become part of the World Pulse community of engaged women allows me to interact with others around the world, allows me to continue my unending education and allows me to support others doing amazing work. This, more than being a cancer survivor, will be my true legacy.