Love, Kudos, Remembrance is an occasional installment profiling people from the Main Line who stumble into grand loves, stand out to their neighbors and whose memories remain after they're gone.
When Carla Zambelli, of Haverford, heard her breast cancer diagnosis, she didn't want the term "cancer" to become a "whisper word."
"There was a scene in `St. Elmo's Fire' where Rob Lowe's character is at somebody's house for dinner, and they whisper, 'They use drugs,' and, 'She has cancer,'" Zambelli said with her own little whispers. "And that's how people are. But I'm a talker."
So, after the initial room-spinning reaction, Zambelli did what she knew best: She researched the disease so much she was seeing "dancing angry breasts in my head" before she slept.
Zambelli kept her humor and stayed frank, but also allowed herself to get angry and be someone she deemed Ms. Cranky Pants.
"The breast getting radiation looks like a donut peach that glows right now," Zambelli wrote on her 17th day of radiation in mid-August.
"I have now hit my daily wall of tired and worked a full day to boot," she added later. "I have one and six-eighths boobs."
Finding out she had breast cancer in April also meant Zambelli needed to take a step back from her time as a community activist, particularly from the Save Ardmore Coalition.
"I had to take care of myself," Zambelli said. "I couldn't be all things for all people and go to neighborhood meetings and civic association meetings. In a sense, you have to be selfish because you have to get through it."
Zambelli didn't go through the process alone, and the support she got from friends and family made Zambelli's eyes grow watery. Random acts of kindness appeared in her mailbox, and a high school friend created a Driving Miss Daisy List that still hangs on Zambelli's wall. She never went to a radiation session alone.
"I'll never be able to repay this debt from these people and the love that they've shown me," Zambelli said. "They would let me wallow, and then they would say, 'Snap out of it!'"
After seven straight weeks of radiation, Zambelli returned to the doctor's office Friday to begin her Tamoxifen treatment. Though she never stopped working while going through treatment – she's paying for health care out of her pocket – and remains active with First Fridays in Ardmore, Zambelli is simply living. Five days after finishing radiation, Zambelli posted to her blog:
Breast cancer has also taught me, like many women before me that it is indeed just fine and dandy to have days where you just say "F it." We're not perfect as human beings, and life is too damn short to not be able to express yourself and say how you feel.