Gloria Steinem is 85 years old and still a highly active women’s rights advocate. Hundreds of thousands of American women consider her a role model. She’s stood (and still stands) at the helm of a feminist movement that has spurred advancements in gender equality and civil rights at-large. She’s also a cancer survivor. Steinem was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1986, at which time she underwent a surgery called a lumpectomy along with radiation treatment, which fortunately left her cancer-free.
“There were so few role models,” Steinem said. “When I first heard the diagnosis, I thought, ironically, ‘Oh, so that’s how it’s going to end.'”
Indeed, in the 80s, the breast cancer death rates were about 40 percent higher than they are today. Far fewer women were surviving their breast cancer and living long enough to stand as role models. Women who, like Steinem, were diagnosed in their 50s, couldn’t look to a woman in her 80s and say, ‘she survived her cancer and is living her life.’