Around this time one year ago, I was researching an in-depth article on Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the fast-rising Democratic congresswoman who represents the West Broward suburbs and still manages to be a minivan-driving soccer mom for her Weston family. I had no idea until this weekend that at the same time, she'd just learned she had breast cancer.
Back then, it seemed that Wasserman Schultz's gravest adversity was her fierce commitment to Hillary Clinton's fading presidential campaign, plus her hesitation about campaigning for Democratic congressional candidates opposing three Republican incumbents in Miami-Dade County, a move that infuriated the liberal blogosphere. These two matters had the potential, at least, to knock Wasserman Schultz off the leadership track that she'd earned within the Democratic Party.
Juggling these political concerns while she raised three school-aged children, no one would have blamed Wasserman Schultz if she were too distracted to conduct the self-exams doctors recommend for catching breast cancer early. After all, this was a woman who gets so busy that she forgets to eat.
After she found the lump, it seems Wasserman Schultz reacted in the same way she reacts to every other problem: with willpower and a systematic plan of attack that accounts for every contingency. From the statement she released yesterday:
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[A]fter sitting down with a nurse educator who asked me many, many questions about my personal and family health history, I also decided to have a blood test that would show whether I had a genetic alteration in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene.
She did have the BRCA2 gene, which meant she remained at risk for breast cancer, as well as ovarian cancer. Ever the aggressor, Wasserman Schultz opted for the double mastectomy and an operation to have her ovaries removed.
For the article I wrote a year ago, I spent one day trying to keep up with the congresswoman while she dashed around her district, balancing politics with parenting. And I spent one day in Washington, D.C., watching her bolt among news conferences, committee meetings, and political rallies. One couldn't help but marvel at what extraordinary focus she devoted to each one of these errands -- even the ones where she could afford to spend only five minutes. It amazes me that she did this despite the specter of breast cancer. Just, wow.
Today, Wasserman Schultz is unveiling the EARLY Act, a program for educating young women about preventative measures against breast cancer.