It’s not the kind of thing you put on your firm biography, next to Phi Beta Kappa and the bar associations and the brilliant judges you clerked for. When you have the narrative of your life mapped out like a PowerPoint presentation, cancer threatens to throw it all off track.

Lesley Pate, a fifth-year associate at Venable, is the kind of achiever who, until last August, seemed to have a game plan for everything. One evening a week for her friends, one for her boyfriend, one for her tap-dancing class, one for herself and one to work late. Pate traveled in Europe for three weeks after she graduated from college because she “wanted to make sure I checked that box.”

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