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Behind the Suit: A survivor who knows the importance of giving back

There are dozens of ways to donate to a good cause, but for Activision's senior director of licensing Lori Plager, the single most important thing she has to offer is her time and her story. Seven years ago, Plager found a lump in her breast while in the shower. After surviving a harrowing 10 months of treatments, she now divides her time between acting as an advocate in the fight against cancer and counseling others like her.
August 1, 2004

There are dozens of ways to donate to a good cause, but for Activision’s senior director of licensing Lori Plager, the single most important thing she has to offer is her time and her story. Seven years ago, Plager found a lump in her breast while in the shower. After surviving a harrowing 10 months of treatments, she now divides her time between acting as an advocate in the fight against cancer and counseling others like her.

At 37, and with no family history of the disease, Plager was shocked by the diagnosis. But as she later discovered, 90% of breast cancer is random rather than genetic, and it can hit women and men of any age. The next 10 months involved several surgeries, 35 rounds of radiation treatment and seven rounds of chemotherapy, which took a heavy toll on Plager’s body. ‘It’s a hard process to go through, but if you survive it, you consider yourself very fortunate,’ she says. ‘I don’t feel like I needed to learn a lesson in life, but I got one anyway.’

Never one to sit back on her heels, Plager got involved in the fight straightaway after recovering, doing a stint as a speaker and participant in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, a three-day trek from Santa Barbara to Malibu during which her brothers surprised her by raising a US$12,000 pledge.

After training with the American Cancer Society, Plager now spends a few hours each week counseling newly diagnosed patients. The counseling can cover a huge range of issues from treatment options, to handling work and the changes to one’s physical appearance. Patients are referred to Plager through support centers such as the Ted Mann Family Resource Center, which provides psycho-social services like support groups, a library and on-staff psychologists from UCLA.

Plager found the center invaluable during her treatment, which was why her father, Dr. Stephan Plager, spent four years quietly raising enough funds to start a similar center in Plager’s hometown of Santa Cruz, California. He managed to keep it a secret until she actually arrived at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Bennet and Suzy Katz Cancer Resource Center.

The experience changed Plager’s personal life as well, spurring her to start a list aptly entitled ‘Lori Plager’s list of 25 things I want to do before I die.’ So far, she’s been able to cross off life-long dreams like buying a house and taking a trip to Israel. ‘I’m much more focused on making my life count now,’ she says. ‘Because at the end of the day, if you’re not getting to those things on your list, you’re wasting your time.’

Editor’s note: The electronic version of this article has been edited from the original print version in order to correct or clarify some information that it contained.

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