Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D- Florida) gets my vote this National Women’s History month.
A model for multitasking, she juggles the roles of Congresswoman, wife and mother, commuting regularly between Capitol Hill, where she represents Florida’s 20th District, and her home in the Sunshine State.
In her five years in Congress, she has garnered widespread attention, support and respect for her quick thinking, passion on the issues and perseverance. With aplomb, she takes on the tough issues and colleagues on both sides of the aisle.
If you’ve caught her on the tube, you know she’s a force majeure. She may look as though a stiff breeze would knock her down, but this lady is a stately palm, bending in the wind.
And now she steps into the center stage spotlight to assume a new role, perhaps the greatest of her life—that of spokesperson for early breast cancer detection among women 40 and under.
No dilettante, she recently disclosed that in 2008, while serving her constituency and stumping for Hillary and Barack, she underwent seven surgeries for breast cancer, including a bilateral mastectomy and removal of both ovaries.
This she did during recesses, missing only slightly more than 3 percent of congressional floor votes. (I can’t help wondering how her colleagues records stack up for the same period.)
Except for telling a few family members, close friends and associates, she kept the lid on her illness until she had recovered and could reassure her children that mom was okay.
For many women, undergoing breast cancer treatment is labor enough, sapping their physical and emotional strength. Keeping it under wraps? Next to impossible.
While exuding fortitude and resilience, Rep.Wasserman Schultz is not unique. Or alone. Today approximately 240,000 women in this country have breast cancer.
Membership in this sorority carries a certain gravitas. That she is in a position to help others has become her latest challenge.
By introducing the Early Act, a bill to raise awareness among women in their 20s and 30s about the importance of early detection, she hopes to lower the age for a baseline mammogram (currently set at 40 years), especially among high risk women.
I applaud her Early Act efforts and wish her well on all battlefields.
Beth Rubin is writing a memoir, Breast Cancer Diary: A Mother’s Journey Through Her Daughter’s Illness.