Sunday, January 31, 2010

Cancer's no match for laughter, love

Telegram Staff Writer

She was 39 when the doctor told her she had breast cancer.
'I was like 'OK,' ' said D'Anne Willis of Lampasas, the luncheon speaker for the Feb. 20 Day for Women program at the Frank Mayborn center in Temple. 'Let's do what we need to get it fixed.'
The professional musician and comedian said she was a good patient.
'I sailed through it,' Mrs. Willis said. 'I passed with flying colors.'
That was in 1997.
'The second time the doctor told me I had breast cancer is a completely different story,' Mrs. Willis said. 'It was several years later in 2001, and I thought I had paid my dues.'
She was angry.
'I was like, 'What's the deal, God?' I questioned my faith and held Him accountable for everything that was going wrong,' Mrs. Willis said. 'I got very sick, I withdrew from all my friends and left my job. I was a hermit.'
In her solace, a thousand thoughts ran through her head. Her mother died of breast cancer, so did her aunts. Her best friend just received her breast cancer diagnosis.
'My friend, she was diagnosed at the same time as me, and she died,' Mrs. Willis said. 'And I was scared.'
Her friend had no family history of the disease and was in perfect health.
'But me, I'm a hundred pounds overweight, and I'm not as active as she was,' Mrs. Willis said. 'She lived the healthy way, and it still got her. So I was pretty sure I was on my way out.'
But that's not how it was for Mrs. Willis.
After a hysterectomy and two mastectomies, her cancer went into remission.
'And it has stayed that way,' she said.
Mrs. Willis credits her recovery with the depression she experienced and how she overcame it.
'I had to take a good look at my relationship with God,' she said. 'I was mad, but I eventually realized God was mad too. He didn't give me cancer or chemo. That's not His doing.'
It was the face of youth that rekindled the flame for her Christian faith.
'At all of my treatments, I was sitting next to a kid going through chemo, just like me,' she said. 'It wasn't a punishment. God make it happen. He was there with us as we went through it.'
That belief, she said, helped to create the cancer survivor she is today.

When Ms. Willis recovered from her second bout of cancer, she decided to incorporate her experiences as a cancer patient into her song-and-comedy routine.
'He got me through it,' she said. 'So I'm willing to share everything I've been through and all that I've learned.'
She does that by poking fun at herself.
'You've got start with the ridiculousness of it all,' Ms. Willis said. 'That's how people relate, and that's what makes it tell-able.'
To describe her hysterectomy, she refers to her ovaries as time bombs.
'That's how urgent the surgery was,' she said. 'But what everyone forgot to mention was that the process would throw me into full-blown menopause...It hit me bad.'
The musician in her was inspired. She penned an Ode to Menopause in the tune of 'I Will Survive.'
Ms. Willis will be performing that number on Feb. 20 at the Day for Women event.


'We were in the surgeon's office. The doctor was telling us that my breasts were going to have to go. I needed a double mastectomy,' Ms. Willis said. 'And the doctor was looking straight at my husband.'
He (Rick Willis of Lampasas) was confused.
'This is about her,' he told the doctor. 'Why are you looking at me?'
The doctor, Ms. Willis said, gave this reply: 'Because this is the point when most men get up and leave.'
Rick was more than sad, but walking out the door was the last thing on his mind.
He looked at the doctor, his wife recalls, and said: 'It's a diseased appendage on my wife, and I want it off.' For the millionth time, Ms. Willis fell in love with her husband, the man she calls her best friend.
'The changes to my body never an issue,' she said. 'It was never a question that it would my marriage.'
In fact, the 'booblessness' something the couple has grown to enjoy.
'I get to choose the boob size I want,' she said. 'And sometimes we pick a pair out together.'
Her stock of fake boobs is pretty impressive. She has enough to wear 'medium ones' to lunch and 'power boobs' on a night out.
'I go to the boob store once a year and come home with a new pair,' she said laughing. 'There's nothing wrong with that as far as I can tell.'

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