Debbie Wasserman Schultz marks 10 years as breast cancer survivor
© Greg Nash

Rep. Debbie Wasserman SchultzDeborah (Debbie) Wasserman SchultzDems vow to repeal parts of GOP tax law Democrats panic over avalanche of good economic news Home Depot co-founder: Dems don’t have any brains MORE is marking a milestone this week: a decade as a breast cancer survivor.

“I have learned first and foremost how you can take nothing for granted in life,” the Florida Democrat tells ITK. “Particularly in the times when I have been through challenges since my diagnosis and survival, sort of everything else really pales in comparison to that.”

“Whereas before something would’ve been more devastating,” Wasserman Schultz now says her attitude is, “I’m alive, life is good.”

The 51-year-old former Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairwoman first received her cancer diagnosis on Dec. 7, 2007. But the mom of three kept it and her treatment — which included a double mastectomy, reconstruction and several other major surgeries — hidden from virtually everyone except close friends and family.

“My only motivation on the professional side for keeping it a secret was when you’re a cancer patient, you feel like you lose control of everything in your life,” Wasserman Schultz says. “And so I wanted to make sure that well-meaning people, who for example if they knew I had cancer, wouldn’t ask me to do things that I might feel capable of doing.”

In 2009, she publicly revealed that she had “successfully battled” breast cancer.

She’s since been open about her experience, even once joking that in Republican-speak, her double mastectomy would be considered having her breasts “repealed and replaced.”

Humor, she tells ITK, diffuses the seriousness of the situation: “I look in the mirror every single day when I get dressed, and I have a very present reminder of what I have been through.”

“It was important for me to use my position and the platform that I have to be able to help other women who have gone through this experience as well,” says the congresswoman.

She says her fight against breast cancer has also drawn her closer to some surprising colleagues in Congress, forging a “real sister- and brotherhood.”

“I actually was able to track down [Sen.] Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOvernight Health Care: Trump eases rules on insurance outside ObamaCare | HHS office on religious rights gets 300 complaints in a month | GOP chair eyes opioid bill vote by Memorial Day HHS official put on leave amid probe into social media posts Trump, Pence to address CPAC this week MORE in the cloakroom a few years ago in the Senate on a Saturday because he had put a hold on the reauthorization of the EARLY Act, which I introduced after I shared my story in 2010,” Wasserman Schultz recalls of the Texas Republican in 2014. The legislation was aimed at helping fund breast cancer educational and awareness campaigns in high school and colleges. “And his mother had been through breast cancer,” Wasserman Schultz says.

After Cruz called her back, the two had a “warm and cordial chat,” and she learned that the holdup was over “an unrelated issue that had nothing to do with the actual bill itself.” The lawmaker says Cruz “really went to bat” for her and “lifted the hold after we had the conversation.”

“Obviously Ted Cruz and I are very different on every issue, but because of the personal experience that we both had with cancer — [him] with a family member and me personally — I was able to tear down the barriers and ultimately get the bill reauthorized,” she says.

Wasserman Schultz has maintained a lower profile this year after stepping down as head of the DNC in 2016 after WikiLeaks published hacked emails appearing to show she, along with other top officials there, expressed preference for Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWoman behind pro-Trump Facebook page denies being influenced by Russians Trump: CNN, MSNBC 'got scammed' into covering Russian-organized rally Pennsylvania Democrats set to win big with new district map MORE over Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersDems ponder gender politics of 2020 nominee 2020 Dem contenders travel to key primary states After Florida school shooting, vows for change but no clear path forward MORE (I-Vt.). as the Democratic presidential nominee during the primaries.

Although it’s been 10 years since she first received the life-changing news, Wasserman Schultz says it’s always on her mind.

“No matter how confident you are that you don’t have an occurrence, all cancer survivors think about the possibility of it coming back every single day,” she says.

She’ll observe Dec. 7 with a “celebratory and educational” event at the Capitol with colleagues and 40 breast cancer and women’s organizations, focused on changing “the statistics that have existed for too long.”

Wasserman exclaims, “We’re celebrating life.”