Cincinnati--Kirsten Nigro, PhD, professor of hispanic culture and
literature at the University of Cincinnati Department of Romance
Language and Literature, has reason to celebrate Cancer Survivors Day
on June 7. Three years ago, Kirsten was diagnosed with breast cancer.
She describes her treatment with surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation
as a journey filled with love, with a little help from new friends
found in cancer support groups. During that period, she met many other
survivors in various stages of treatment who gave her the special
support she needed to cope.
"Cancer is the great leveler of humankind and crosses all
socioeconomic, racial, and religious boundaries," she says. She found
intimate friendships in the support groups, with people she might never
have met otherwise. Kirsten attended cancer support groups at the
Wellness Center in Kenwood and at the Barrett Cancer Center.
Like most women diagnosed with breast cancer, Kirsten was shocked at
first. But she knew she could survive--because her mother had survived
her own breast cancer 35 years earlier. Her mother lost her breast to
the disease, but no one spoke about it afterwards. "Iím glad the secret
shroud surrounding cancer has finally been lifted. This is a disease
that needs to be talked about, because talking about it reduces the
fear," she says. "Many cancer survivors develop a dark sense of humor,"
she adds. Some she met during her treatment wrote poetry about the loss
of hair, brittle nails, and other side effects.
"Iím living proof that whatever you have to go through is worth it,"
Kirsten says. Her advice to cancer patients is simple. "This isnít a
contest of true grit, so however you react emotionally to cancer
treatment is OK whether you laugh or cry. You need not be brave all the
time, but remember to find ways to help those around you cope, because
family, friends, and especially children, may have a tough time
confronting their own fears of possible loss."
The Cincinnati Wellness Center offers support groups for family and
friends and recently began one for children of cancer patients. Kirsten
faced her own feelings of mortality thinking, "This isnít my
time--Godís not going to get me yet." Today, Kirsten celebrates every
minute possible with her daughter and husband, and her mother, who
lives in Georgia, via telephone. She is looking forward to National
Cancer Survivors Day, to be celebrated in Cincinnati on June 7 at the
"Festival of Life." The corporate sponsor of the 1998 "Festival of
Life" is the Health Alliance of Greater Cincinnati, which includes: The
Christ Hospital, The University Hospital, The Jewish Hospital, and the
St. Luke Hospitals.