Among other family dysfunctions, my only brother and I had an incest relationship for several years, beginning when I was 8 years old. I suffered emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually from the abuse, my complicity and silence. I kept the secret until it became unbearable-I was 33 years old and suicidal most of the time by then. Silence is dangerous – a real killer of the soul. I know from experience that I was as sick as my secret. Relationships suffered and my only marriage failed miserably. I purposefully did not have children for fear of repeating the family illnesses. Many years of psychiatry have helped me re-create an image of myself that is harmonious with who I want to be.

I was addicted to cigarettes, smoking a couple packs a day from the time I was 14 years old (the same year the incest ceased). On June 1st, 1992, I signed a contract with myself to create a nonsmoking environment. I never smoked again.

On May 18, 1988, I began my involvement in a 12-step program to address my issues with drug and alcohol abuse. I have aspired to become an worthy example of sobriety, grace, and service. In 2000, I added another 12-step program to learn about the concepts for and develop new tools to utilize in appropriate and successful relationships.

In 1999 and again in 2004, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, both found during routine mammograms. Treatment was extremely aggressive the first time (right breast). Bald was beautiful, albeit a bit chilly! I also could hardly remember my own name because of “chemo-brain.” The stress associated with having cancer, the treatment and the economic strain was a test of sheer endurance. The second occurrence was on the opposite side of my body (left breast) – a brand new cancer. I underwent a biopsy, a lumpectomy, and 7-1/2 weeks of radiation – thankfully no chemo.

Instead of focusing on what was wrong, I used my energy to fundraise for cancer research. The interaction with friends, family, and the community was emotionally satisfying and financially rewarding. My efforts resulted in a $6,002 donation.

On August 27, 1992, I was brutally raped by a stranger who woke me up from a sound sleep. He robbed me of personal treasures and my soul. He was identified through DNA testing-the statute of limitations had already lapsed so he can never be prosecuted for his crimes against me. When I found out I could not prosecute, I proclaimed that I would do anything to change the way the system functioned. In February and June 2000 when new legislation was being introduced to change the statute and DNA laws, I went to Sacramento to testify. In January, 2001, a new law was passed and this story will never be repeated! Since then, I have been an activist for further legislation, advocated on behalf of survivors, and held in-home family discourses on the dynamics of abuse, rape and domestic violence. Speaking publicly is my prescription for “letting go” of what ails me and I heal more.