Hearing that you or someone you love has cancer is life-changing. It's more common than any of us would hope; nearly 40,000 American women die annually from breast cancer alone. It seems that everyone here at JMC has been touched by cancer in some way—including our founder herself. Josie's grandmother, Rita Maran, is 35-year survivor of the disease. In her honor and in honor of all the Argan beauties battling the disease, Josie put together a special collection of "Think Pink" JMC products. Fifteen percent of sales from each of these products will be donated to City of Hope to support those battling breast cancer. We sat down with Grandma Rita—who at a very young 83 still plays tennis every day to keep herself healthy and fit—to learn about her experience as a breast cancer survivor.
When were you diagnosed with breast cancer?
My first bout with cancer was way back in 1972, when a hysterectomy was necessary to remove a cancerous uterus. Five years later, a large cancerous tumor in my left breast led to surgery - what was then called a 'radical mastectomy.' That in turn called for chemotherapy for half-a-year, plus a dedicated daily routine of physical exercise to get back into physical - and mental – shape.
What was it like to go through your fight against breast cancer?
I was determined to combine mind (reason) and body (exercise). My attitude was: first came cancer, now comes recovery. I was living in London but had terrific support from family, all of them three thousand miles away in California, and from circles of women- and men-friends in England. I jumped headfirst into a new job doing human rights campaigning work with nonviolent grassroots groups in a dozen European countries. That in turn led to "going back to school" at the London School of Economics, to understand how international human rights law could help accomplish nonviolent social change. I just plugged away at staying healthy and learning what I needed to know about human rights.
As a survivor, what words of advice and support would you give to those affected by breast cancer?
It's a bummer - no doubt about it. Breast cancer represents a huge challenge to your mind, your body, and your self-image. That's a fact - get used to it. For me, it was a call to pull up my socks, get full command of all my resources, and get to work.
What does it mean to you to have your granddaughter, Josie, raising money for breast cancer?
Josie was born first of my four grandchildren. I remember her at three months, when she was still my only grandchild and I was still undergoing chemotherapy. We were lying in bed early one morning, playing and laughing, when the thought suddenly hit me: "It doesn't matter to this darling little girl that I have only one breast. She can only know me as I am." Once that realization was out of the way, I could enjoy my granddaughter - and the three grandsons that followed, and now Josie's two daughters - Rumi Joon and Indi Joon- and her cousin Peter's son - Axel, without cancer getting in the way. Josie's nature is to look at a problem - in this case breast cancer - and dig in to do something positive and life-affirming. I couldn't be more proud or more happy that she is that way and that she and Ali are surrounding their two girls with that sense of respect and compassion for others with whom we share this planet.