Last year, writers involved in WEGO’s Health Activist Writers Month Challenge were prompted to write a letter to their younger selves. This year, we are asked to write a letter to our older selves or to our condition. Neither prompt is speaking to me, so here is a little free form.
April 6, 2013
Dear Ambassador Shirley Temple Black;
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer a little over a year ago, I went searching for celebrities who had gone through BC. One of these searches led to you. As I was only 4 in 1972, I was not aware that you were one of the first public figures to openly discuss your breast cancer and your mastectomy at age 44–which happened to be my treatment and age as well. Having any form of cancer is not a walk in the park, but by having the audacity to speak out about your experiences, you helped bring breast cancer out of the silent, muffled closet that kept women from sharing their experiences for so many years.
You give me hope on a number of levels. You give me hope that I too might live into my 80s, living a full and productive life. You also give me hope that I too can move my career into a new direction. If you can move from child actress to diplomat, I too might be able to transfer my skills into a new direction.
I read that at the time of your announcement, you received over 50,000 letters from women thanking you for coming forward with your story of breast cancer. I’m sure there have been many more, but I’d like to add another letter to the mix. Thank you so much for having the courage to come forward and setting such a strong example.
Also, I’d like to wish you an early happy birthday!
All the best,
Educator, Returned Peace Corps Volunteer and Breast Cancer Survivor
And if you would like to learn a little more about Ms. Black, please check out this article from the Daily Mail.
so much better than the other writing prompts!!! Wow—I had no idea that she is also a survivor like yourself!!! And spoke out about it as well, long before celebs’ lives were documented by twitter and TMZ! Wow. Awesome letter!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Thanks Kel! Thanks to women like Shirley Temple Black and Betty Ford, I can now talk openly about my breast cancer. Hard to believe that less than 45 years ago, this wouldn’t have been the case.
I love this! I never knew about Shirley Temple-Black’s breast cancer, not to mention her young age. Good for her for being open about it at a time women just didn’t do that. Thanks for sharing, JoAnn!
What a fantastic women to start the process of being open about health issues.. It gives such help to others… Great idea for a letter…
Thanks, Helen! Funny, around the time she was battling breast cancer, TV stations in the US were still showing plenty of Shirley Temple’s old movies–and I remember watching them.