GA Voice - - Activist In Action -

Five years ago. It was at the very end of Septem­ber, the be­gin­ning of Oc­to­ber of 2010. I had no history of can­cer in the fam­ily. I had clear mam­mo­grams through­out the years. I had even thought about why should I have one that year when all the oth­ers had been clear.

When I got that ini­tial call … say­ing let’s get an ul­tra­sound, then they say let’s get a … biopsy. That’s when you start think­ing, “Gosh, could this re­ally be hap­pen­ing?” Then when you get that call back from the doc­tor you’ve seen for the past 10 years, and it turns out to be can­cer—it’s a bizarre feel­ing. For me

You have to think about that your doc­tor has to rec­om­mend you to a sur­geon. There is a lot to think about. Do you agree with the course of treat­ment? Do you need a sec­ond opin­ion? You are al­ways think­ing about it. At night I would wake up. I chose to have the mas­tec­tomy. But even af­ter that you have to sched­ule the surgery and wait. You wake up and go to work, and so­cial­ize with friends. You talk about it or don’t talk about it.

How did peo­ple re­act?

Some peo­ple had hor­ror sto­ries, what it was like when they went through it. They tell you these things but un­til you go through it your­self you don’t re­ally know. Ev­ery­one’s ex­pe­ri­ence is dif­fer­ent. Then there were those who don’t know what to say and will say, “I know it will be all right.” How did they know? I’d rather they say I’m here if you need me. Not that it will all be fine. Which, frankly, it was.

You con­tin­ued to stay in­volved in LGBT ac­tivism dur­ing your re­cov­ery. Why?

I had my mas­tec­tomy on the day of Toy Party and I was a full-fledged board mem­ber at the time and I felt guilty I was not there.

I had a very dif­fi­cult re­cov­ery be­cause my arm got dam­aged dur­ing the surgery. A four month … re­cov­ery turned into an al­most year and a half re­cov­ery. Life went on. I didn’t want to be home feel­ing sorry for my­self or even dwelling on it, but it was al­ways there at a low sim­mer. Only re­cently what went on has all come back to me in a more or­derly way.

Maybe I used my ac­tivism as a way of cop­ing. Here is an ah-mo­ment for me. I was do­ing the Toy Party and Back­pack in the Park. I went to all the HRC events I could. I marched in the Pride pa­rade with For the Kid. And I never walk—I do not like be­ing out­side and walk­ing. But that year I hopped, skipped and jumped through­out that pa­rade. Look­ing back on that, it was just a way to cope.

As such, I’ve kind of let go of be­ing closely in­volved with or­ga­ni­za­tions. I’m step­ping back to take care of my­self like I didn’t be- fore. It’s al­most like a de­layed re­ac­tion to what hap­pened to me.

What are some of your other thoughts?

I think the things I had the most trou­ble with were the peo­ple telling me how much an in­spi­ra­tion I was. Noth­ing felt in­spir­ing about it. This thing hap­pened to me. There was no in­spi­ra­tion in the way I re­cov­ered.

I know when I met Patt [Cian­ci­ullo, her wife] she had re­cently lost her part­ner to ovar­ian can­cer. She went on a bike ride in her part­ner’s mem­ory for a can­cer group. There was this al­most cult-like headi­ness over the sur­vivor. I just couldn’t get into it. I’m not into that whole cel­e­bra­tion of the can­cer sur­vivor thing. Pink has never been my color. I know for many it inspires them. For me, it’s not. I had the can­cer; I sup­port other peo­ple with can­cer. But I can’t get into the mind­set of the pink hur­rahs. But at the same time I un­der­stand you need in­spi­ra­tion and hope to keep go­ing.

Oc­to­ber 16, 2015

Mag­gie Lopez Cian­ci­ullo was di­ag­nosed with breast can­cer in 2010 and had a mas­tec­tomy. (Cour­tesy photo)

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