Laughing and Living as Lady Danger: A Q&A With Doris Ann Price
Thirteen years after her diagnosis with stage II breast cancer in 1993, Doris Ann Price, 69, noticed a lump above her collar bone. Her oncologist didn’t think it was cancer, but her instincts told her otherwise. Doris Ann demanded a biopsy.
The experience taught Doris Ann to advocate for her health. The diagnosis motivated her to use her conviction to speak for others who can’t find their voices, which led her to volunteer for several breast cancer organizations, including Living Beyond Breast Cancer, Breast Cancer Action and METAvivor.
You’re active in breast cancer education, support and advocacy on behalf of organizations like LBBC and METAvivor, as well as online. What motivates your interest in advocacy?
I feel driven to take meaningful and worthwhile action, both for myself and others affected by metastatic disease. So, patient advocacy has become my vocation.
As you grow older, you often wonder: What was my life worth? Did I make a difference? I want to make a positive contribution while I am alive and then pay it forward for others living with stage IV breast cancer when I am no longer here.
Can you tell our readers the story behind your connection to MAC Cosmetic’s Lady Danger lipstick?
I came across the lipstick about 9 years ago and immediately identified with its bold, vibrant color. I embraced its name, “Lady Danger,” as a statement of how determined I was to approach my life challenges. I also appreciated that the product didn’t contain any lead, so I felt it was a safe choice. It’s my signature color.
A few years ago, I contacted a MAC store manager and shared that I’m living with metastatic breast cancer and people often stop me to ask about the shade. I told them Lady Danger was my online moniker and that I planned to reference the shade as a metaphor for my life in my speech at the 2012 Metastatic Breast Cancer Network national conference.
MAC decided that Lady Danger symbolized how I was living life to the fullest in defiance of my diagnosis. The store manager gifted me with a lifetime supply of Lady Danger lipstick. I’ve since outlived that box, but continue to feel good juju whenever I wear my Lady Danger.
Humor plays a big role in your approach to living with metastatic breast cancer. Can you talk about your philosophy with humor?
When it comes to stage IV disease, you frequently see dark humor. There are certainly times when it makes you laugh, but that kind of humor is also tinged with bitterness. I prefer to share more light than darkness. After all, we’re living with this disease and everybody can benefit from periodic infusions of smiles and laughter.
I’ll spontaneously create and post memes on Facebook whenever ideas come to mind that tickle my fancy. The feedback I get from my Facebook friends makes me happy that I can help them laugh and smile.
You’ve been in a clinical trial at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, far away from your home in Raleigh, North Carolina. How do you take your mind off the travel, treatment and being away from home?
A community of support really helps. My husband and I had no place to stay in Boston, so our congregation in North Carolina called the Boston synagogues to locate a home away from home near Dana-Farber, where I’m doing well on a phase 1(b) clinical trial.
My nutritionist also invited us to stay at his condo in New Hampshire. We’ve met some of the nicest and kindest people who have opened their hearts and their homes to help us get through this.
What tips or suggestions do you have for someone who has been recently diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer?
It’s helpful to reach out and ask questions of others [living with metastatic breast cancer] and your healthcare providers. Equally as important, listen to your body and trust your intuition.
Try not to spend a lot of time listening to or reading about when you’re going to die. Everyone is going to die. The important thing is not only to be alive but to live.
Open yourself up to people and organizations that can support you. Living Beyond Breast Cancer is an incredible resource. Find the type of support that works for you. You don’t have to go through this alone.