GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - Healing and humor are two words that rarely go together, but for Christine Clifford, the combination couldn't be more powerful.
"Most people want to hear that they can lead a regular life. They don't want to be consumed by their cancer experience and certainly laughter and humor are a part of our everyday living," says Clifford.
Clifford was first diagnosed with breast cancer two decades ago. She was determined to fight the disease in her own way. Clifford's cartoons depicting cancer-related commentary led to a book, which led to a movement called "The Cancer Club."
"I've learned that everybody has their own perception of humor," Clifford says. "I've found that if you can make fun of yourself, people will embrace that."
Once in remission, Clifford went about her life as an author, motivational speaker and mother. Then -- this past spring -- she received a call.
"I was driving to Winona to give a speech to 200 cancer patients," explains Clifford. "I got the call that I had cancer again, and I really lost it."
Clifford also discovered she carries the BRC1 gene, increasing her risk for breast and other types of cancer. And because her mother had died of breast cancer, she made the difficult decision to have a double mastectomy.
"Now with the type of cancer she has, being a BRC1 gene carrier does not respond to normal therapy," says Clifford's doctor, Dr. Margit Bretzke. "She will need some chemotherapy."
Clifford's treatment centers on chemotherapy, with a total of 16 rounds, every week for four months. It's a familiar, but unwelcomed routine.
"I'm hoping I can get through this and avoid the nausousness that's associated with chemotherapy," Clifford says.
Aside from the chemotherapy, Clifford visits the doctor frequently, undergoing a series of saline injections as a result of reconstructive surgery. But, it's a one-time moment that evokes a different kind of emotion.
"I think without question, that is a very difficult moment for all cancer patients," Clifford says. "The day when your hair falls out, not like the rest of the world. This has changed me."
For Clifford, the positive always outweighs the negative. From events friends have held in her honor, to ongoing family support, her silver lining is based on an appreciation for life.
"I keep joking that the second diagnosis was God's way of telling me I need new material," Clifford says. "I've had to search for humor. It's not easy, but I keep at it."
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