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Mary LaskerMary Lasker
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and the first encounter I had with illness, besides having been sick myself with dysentery and I suppose childhood diarrhea and earaches and feeling very poorly much of the time when I was very little--so poorly in fact that I remember waking up and seeing this friend of my mother's and my mother and hearing my mother's friend saying, “Sara, I don't think you'll ever raise her.” I believe I told you this.


Yes, and her brushing you off so lightly.


Yes, brushing me off so lightly. Well, outside of my own illnesses, my first encounter with illness that upset me very much was when I was between, I think, three and four--I remember being very small in a room, feeling very small in a room. My mother took me to see her laundress, whose name was Mrs. Belter, in Watertown, Wisconsin. She was living in a shack with seven children and she was lying on a low bed, covered with some very inadequate bed clothing. My mother, on the way to visit her, said, “Mrs. Belter has had cancer and her breasts have been removed,” and I said, “What do you mean? Cut off?” And my mother said, “Yes.” And I thought: this shouldn't happen to anybody. And when I stood in the room and saw this miserable sight with her children crowding around her, I was absolutely infuriated, indignant, that this woman should suffer so and that there should be no help for her and other people obviously didn't have this same affliction.

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