The First Lady of Breast Cancer

The first thing I noticed in my newspaper this morning was a front-page story that former first lady Betty Ford had died. If you’re old enough to still read a print newspaper instead of getting your news exclusively online, you’ll remember her. If you’re not, you need to know what an extraordinary woman she was.

I was 19 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1974. At that time, cancer was something you just did not talk about. But Betty Ford was as open and honest about her diagnosis as she was about every other part of her life, a trait that sometimes got her into trouble but also endeared her to many.

The impact of her sharing this news was immediate and widespread. The story I read this morning said that women were flocking to their doctors for checkups before she even left the hospital. It quoted Ford telling people in 2001, “It was kind of like, if the first lady can have breast cancer, anyone can have breast cancer.”

Through her openness and honesty, Betty Ford did more to raise awareness of breast cancer than a million pink ribbons could ever do. May God bless and keep her.

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7 thoughts on “The First Lady of Breast Cancer

  1. I was 20 in 1974. She inspired so many of us, and her candor is one of the reasons I made the same decision upon hearing my own diagnosis, to tell as many people as I could — if I could get breast cancer, so could anyone else. She deserves to be remembered by us all.

    • She sure does. I think that happens a lot when it hits someone you know—when I told people, two women I know immediately scheduled overdue mammograms. So you’ve helped and I’ve helped–and Betty was us times an order of magnitude. Thanks, Kathi.

  2. She was a classy lady who wasn’t afraid to be herself. While she wasn’t a brazen as Gloria Steinem, I think Ms. Ford was definitely a feminist role model to women of a certain age. She always handled what life gave her with grace.

  3. Jackie,
    Like you, I remember when Betty Ford was diagnosed. Even then I admired her candor and willingness to put herself out there. There are many women who paved the road ahead of us and Betty Ford was one of them. Thanks for the tribute.

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