Sunday, September 30, 2001

Breast cancer

Young mom offers her battle plan

        Some of us were still in our jammies. Trey, 5, and Grace, 2, were running around in those soft, pastel patterned suits that make you look for an excuse to pat them. Grace carefully removed her pacifier to say hello.

        Their mother, Tracie Metzger, allowed me to interrupt the morning ritual — sliding me in between the kids' breakfast and getting them dressed for the day. Grace wants to watch the Cartoon Channel. Trey is disgusted by the “baby stuff.” But he is polite.

        A normal morning.

        And nobody appreciates a normal morning more than this young mother. Just waking up with eyebrows is a thrill. Believing that she will see her kids grow up is unimaginable joy.

        A year ago, Tracie, 31, found a lump during her morning shower. It turned out to be breast cancer. “But I'm too young,” she thought. Briefly. Then she plunged into battle. Surgery. Chemotherapy.

        Her hair fell out. “My mom and sisters had a Falling Out Party,” she said. They laughed about it. No other choice, really.

Looking the part

Tracie Metzger
Tracie Metzger
        Tracie, who lives in Westwood with her husband, Ray, an internist, was really sick. Throwing-up sick. Sunken cheeks. Pale face. No hair. “I really looked the part of a cancer patient,” she says.

        She had a wig, but she was afraid one of the neighborhood kids might barge into the house when she was “being bald.” So, she sat down with them, as she had her own children, and explained that she was sick, but taking medicine to get better. “I tried to make it funny,” she says. She whipped off her “pretend hair” and asked, “Do I look like Daddy Warbucks in Annie?

        Most emphatically not. Not then and certainly not now. More like an ad for toothpaste or “clean makeup,” she is the picture of health. “I feel like a million bucks, better now than I ever have.”

        And then she says a curious thing, one I've heard time and time again from cancer survivors. “I feel blessed.”

        Not just blessed to have survived. But blessed by the experience.

Broadcasting bald

        “I learned a lot,” she says. She thinks she could pass this along, share her battle plan, her survival strategy. She will be among the referrals made through the Breast Cancer Alliance Hotline (588-4142).

        “Mothers with little kids have a different set of worries,” she says. “And I want to lend personal support. Just talk, if they want.”

        She thinks this is the “perfect time to get started.” October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and the annual BCA seminar and luncheon is Oct. 13 at the Westin Hotel.

        Tickets are $20, and include lectures and information on everything from nutrition to health insurance, plus a light breakfast and lunch. Keynote speaker is Leslie Mouton, the San Antonio news anchor, who surprised viewers by “broadcasting bald” during her chemotherapy. Reservations can be made by telephoning 961-5443.

        The BCA event and, frankly, the entire awareness campaign beginning tomorrow is for breast cancer survivors and potential survivors. It's for caregivers and medical personal. It's for anybody who might know someone with breast cancer.

        In other words, it's for us all.
       E-mail Laura at or call 768-8393.

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