Thursday, May 10, 2007

Relay for Life brings back memories of Molly Ivins

When the sun goes down on Saturday, May 19, glowing “luminaria” will line the Clear Lake High School track. This special candlelight tribute is part of the Relay for Life, sponsored by the American Cancer Society. Each small flickering flame honors a life that has been lost to cancer.

At least one candle, if only to my mind, will honor Molly Ivins.

As a liberal columnist who has dedicated her career to championing progressive causes, Ivins is — quite simply — someone I admire. Her profile on the Inflammatory Breast Cancer survivors’ Web site states that Ivins made her way to liberalism on issues of civil rights (“Once you realize they’re lying to you about race, everything else follows”) and the Vietnam War.

I’ve read Ivins’ column for years in newspapers and magazines. When her columns were published in books, I faithfully bought each one.

On the occasions that I wrote columns for the Observer American and the Record-Bee, I liked to envision myself as following in my heroine’s shoes. I readily jumped on the bandwagon by refering to our president as “Dubya” but never took to using “Shrub.” I think either pejorative is more interesting than calling him “Bush 43.”

I even had the pleasure of attending a reading that featured Ivins and Annie Lamott. Ivins spoke forcefully and passionately about what she viewed as our obligation to participate as voters in the U.S. political system. During Q&A, she was a model of gracious hospitality — even when confronted by a speaker’s line of “questioning” that seemed more a recitation of his own credentials as an activist.

Sadly, Ivins’ tenure as a survivor came to its conclusion on Wednesday, Jan. 31. Ivins was 62 when she died in Austin, Texas. Obituaries reported that she was surrounded by family and friends.

Ivins was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999, at the age of 55. At the time of her Santa Rosa appearance she had already undergone at least one round of treatments; she discussed it openly and with candor. Indeed, her profile notes that Ivins, after enduring two masectomies, was a speaker on surviving breast cancer.

“Who Needs Breasts?” by Ivins neatly sums the “massive amounts of no fun” that can befall a cancer survivor; but she ably uses humor to deflate what could be cause for bitterness and despair. “First they mutilate you; then they poison you; then they burn you. I have been on blind dates better than

The Web site also brings readers up to date with a report circa Jan. 27 that Ivins’ cancer was “back with a vengeance.”

I hope the IBC survivors’ Web site will allow Ivins’ profile to stay up. View it at For more information about Lake County’s Relay for Life, visit or call Beth Berinti, 274-1482.

Published May 10, 2007 in the Lake County Record-Bee

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