Date: May 1st, 2000
"The amazing thing about me is that I'm alive!" Natalie Davis Spingarn comments wryly. How true. Twenty-five years ago, Spingarn suffered from metastatic breast cancer. She not only lived, but she also went on to become a successful writer and advocate for cancer survivors. Her 1982 book, Hanging In There, reflected Spingarn's strong will to survive. Recently, she published The New Cancer Survivors: Living with Grace, Fighting with Spirit. It takes into account how survivors deal with some of the changes in medicine and health care, from shortened hospital stays to modern-day communicating with physicians.
"With aging, a big problem arises when people reach a point where they can't do what their emotions and minds want them to do," Spingarn says. "It's important to think about living in the here and now. There's a lot of loss as you get older. But the more you stay on top of things and the more you do, the better you feel."
Spingarn has been an achiever all of her 75 plus years. Indeed, her personal and professional "resumes" shine: wife, mother, grandmother, Vassar graduate, vice chair of the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, newspaper reporter, writer for major publications such as the Washington Post and the New York Times, award winning writer for print as well as for a film on doctor-patient communication.
One might also add wisdom collector. Take that interview with a Congressman that Spingarn did while she was in her twenties. She gleaned life-long guidance from the experience. "We were talking about somebody and I said, 'Oh, he's over 90 and he's still up and at it.' The Congressman replied, 'He's too interested to die.' I thought, 'That may be true.' Ever since then, I've used that when I'm asked what is the key to a long life."
Of course, the going isn't always easy. Spingarn's husband suffers now from serious memory loss. The condition is hard to accept and Spingarn has had to take on a lot more of the couple's affairs. Yet, she remains as determined as ever to "survive." She still writes occasionally for the Washington Post and she's making personal and radio appearances to promote her new book.
As Natalie Davis Spingarn puts it, "I live a full life and I want to keep it that way."