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

Rep. Debbie Wasserman SchultzDeborah (Debbie) Wasserman SchultzHouse Intel votes to release Russia transcripts Live coverage: Senate Judiciary to vote on Kavanaugh confirmation Dems urge Mattis to reject using 0M for border wall 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experience, even once joking that in Republican-speak, her double mastectomy would be considered having her breasts “repealed and replaced.”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 CruzNoisy democracy, or rude people behaving like children? Democrats hold fading odds of winning Senate this November Donald Trump Jr. emerges as GOP fundraising force 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 ClintonHillary Clinton on if Bill should’ve resigned over Lewinsky scandal: ‘Absolutely not’ Electoral battle for Hispanics intensifies in Florida Trump adds campaign stops for Senate candidates in Montana, Arizona, Nevada MORE over Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersSenators pledge action on Saudi journalist’s disappearance Senators concerned as Trump official disputes UN climate change warning Jake Tapper hits Trump over 'Medicare for all' op-ed: ‘It’s only an hourlong show, we can’t get into every lie’ 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.”