Cancer survivor's diagnosis changed her life 'in so many positive ways'
Cancer survivor Christine Clifford, left, talks with Tim Lung Thursday night during the Celebration of Life Survivors Party at Fountain Head Country Club. Clifford was the keynote speaker. (By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer / October 11, 2012)
Just 19 years old when her mother lost her battle with the disease at age 42, Clifford found a lump in her breast during a routine self-examination that led to her own diagnosis when she was 40.
“My kids were 10 and 8 at the time, and I thought, ‘oh my gosh, I’m going to go the way of my mom. I’m going to crawl in bed and die,’” she said. “And lo and behold, I found humor in my situation.”
After her diagnosis, Clifford began drawing cartoons and writing books, which ultimately led to her quitting her “real job” and becoming a full-time author. She later became a professional speaker about a year after her cancer went into remission.
“I often say that for me personally, my cancer diagnosis has really been a gift because it changed my life in so many positive ways,” said the 18-year cancer survivor from Minneapolis, Minn.
Clifford, now 58, joined hundreds of local breast cancer survivors Thursday night at the 23rd annual Celebration of Life Survivors Party, hosted by Breast Cancer Awareness — Cumberland Valley, Inc. at the Fountain Head Country Club.
The banquet-style event drew about 315 people, including 250 survivors, according to Janet Lung, community liaison for the BCA-CV.
“It’s just a really nice evening to celebrate life,” said Lung, a survivor herself who was diagnosed when she was 37. “We’ve been through a lot ... with treatment and surgery, and it’s just a really nice way to celebrate what we’ve been through. ... It’s a life-changing experience.”
Clifford, the founder of The Cancer Club based in Edina, Minn., and author of eight spirit-lifting books, served as the evening’s guest speaker.
“I always say anybody who’s been diagnosed with cancer is a hero,” she said. “Each person has a story to share, and if we could take the time tonight to listen to all of their stories, every one of them would pull on our heartstrings.”
The evening also served to honor Dr. Charles Chaney, a 35-year breast surgeon who operated his own practice, Antietam Surgeons on South Cleveland Avenue. He estimated that he cared for about two-thirds of the women in attendance Thursday.
Retiring in November, Chaney said it was very overwhelming to be recognized in front of such a large crowd.
“It’s very emotional. I hope I don’t have to talk tonight,” he said with a laugh. “They taught me a lot.”
If there’s two things that Clifford tries to teach in her books and keynote speeches, it’s to research all the possibilities and keep your spirits up.
“Every day there are new discoveries, new protocols, new treatments, new methods of surgery,” she said. “Get as well informed as you can. Don’t be afraid to ask people for help. The love and support that people want to give you can absolutely get you through this on a day to day basis, and don’t forget to laugh.”