Speech by Anne Abate, an IBC survivor, to a group of information professionals in January, 2003.

I have learned many things in the last year. These are things that I hope that you never have the opportunity to learn. While I am a strong proponent of continuing education, you will see as I continue why I don’t want you to follow my path.

Let me begin with the story of my nomination. Last year, in February, I received that call that some look forward to and others dread. I was called by the Nominating Committee for SLA. They wanted me to run for a Board position. At first, I was delighted, I am one of those who looks forward to the chance to serve the Association. At the same time, I had a sense of foreboding. I had been harboring some changes in my health, and not acting on them as I should.

I don’t know if anyone else can say this — SLA saved my life. When I received that call from Charles on the Nominating Committee, it gave me the chance to say to myself “life IS worth living, someone DOES need me, SLA needs me.” In conjunction with making up my mind about running for the Board, I did some research and located a surgeon who was able to diagnose the health problem I was facing.

In February, (February 14 to be exact) I was diagnosed with an aggressive disease known as Inflammatory Breast Cancer. This is not your regular “plain vanilla” breast cancer, and it is not treated in the same way. Within a week, I had undergone two surgeries–the first two surgeries of my life — one to do an extensive biopsy and the other to insert a port through which I would receive chemotherapy for the next six months. In August, I went under the knife again, this time for a bilateral mastectomy.

They finished everything off with a few weeks of radiation. I am happy to say that since the time of the surgery, I have been cancer free. In the last couple of months, some of my strength has been returning, and I am almost back to normal (although, don’t ask my husband as he waits on me as I lay on the couch every evening!)

Why is this important to you, as you consider the best people to put on the SLA Board of Directors? Well, my experience has taught me some very important lessons.

First, life is too short. Simply that. Life is too short. It is important to do everything that you can in the time that you have.

Next, I have developed an astounding ability to say and do what needs to be said and done. Now, those of you who have watched me in action on the Board before are probably thinking “She was holding things back BEFORE?” Yes, I have always been pretty vocal. Now I realize how important that is and plan to speak up whenever necessary. I am no longer afraid to say anything.

This is a very important time for our Association. As we approach our centennial in 2009, we are facing a crisis of identity. We need to learn who we are and who we may want to become. The leaders you pick now, will have an important influence on how we develop and who we will be in 2009. As a leader, I consider myself a representative of the membership. If we could, every one of us, every member, should be sitting on that Board and making those decisions.

As it is, a handful of us are selected to represent the rest. In my past and hopefully in my future on the Board, I see myself as truly trying to represent the membership and have their collective voice heard by the Board, throughout the Association, and throughout the information community.

In conclusion, take care of yourselves. I would encourage you to learn a little bit about Inflammatory Breast Cancer, for yourselves and women you know. Our motto is, “You don’t have to have a lump to have Breast Cancer”, and this is really true. The symptoms are entirely different. I encourage you to contact me for additional information, or go to ibcresearch.org and learn the symptoms. There is even a brochure that you can print out and share with others.

Don’t learn things the hard way — the way I did. Continuing education is essential, but none of us need to know as much as I do about chemotherapy and surgical procedures and radiation treatments.

Fortunately, within that education I have had over the last year, I did learn the most important lesson “life is short” make sure you use it, every minute of it, wisely.