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Fighting Cancer, Celebrating Life

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Let's face it: Cancer changes your perspective on a lot of things. And while it's hard to even utter the words "thankful" and "cancer" in the same sentence, Suzanne Donaldson -- the photo editor of Glamour magazine -- makes a perfect case for doing so.

Donaldson, married just three months at the time, was diagnosed in 2006 with hairy cell leukemia. The words you hope to never hear -- "you have cancer" -- came after a routine blood test showed she had a low white cell blood count. Hairy cell leukemia is a disease that most typically afflicts middle-age Jewish men, she points out, adding, "And I'm a young shiksa, so what's up with that?" proving that not even cancer can nip a strong woman's sense of humor.

She underwent aggressive treatment through 2006 and then once again got slammed by her atypical disease. Remissions for hairy cell leukemia generally last 10 years; hers lasted just five.

More treatment followed and then this week this email found its way to my inbox. Here's an excerpted version of what she wrote under the headline "Things I Am Thankful For:"

"My no-chemo Christmas this year, family and friends, sense of humor, ability to raise money, and cancer research.

"As so many of you know, I was diagnosed with hairy cell leukemia in 2006. The cancer came back again last year at this time and I was barely getting to work. Chemo and a crazy protocol of a drug called Rituximab for two months this summer made me good as new. I thank the men and woman in white lab coats for that and on their behalf, I am writing you.

"I turned 50 this year and have raised $40,000 for the Light the Night campaign that benefits the Leukemia Lymphoma Society. I'm 50 and I want to make it $50,000 by Dec. 15.

"All I want for Christmas is for no one to have to suffer from this awful disease again."

When I spoke with Donaldson on the phone, she added one more thing to her list of things for which she is thankful: The fact that she has more media connections in her Rolodex than probably even Karl Rove, and she's not afraid to use them. Go for it, girlfriend.

Having a platform is a gift and she's right when she says the more you share, the more you get back. To that end, here's the link for donations:

http://pages.lightthenight.org/nyc/Manhattn11/sdonaldcsq