Sunday, April 6, 2014

IT'S BREAST CANCER Back away from our emotions!

Yesterday, I mentioned Dr. Kumar's link to the Barbara Ehrenreich article: Smile! You've got cancer.

Her journey has been lengthier and tougher than mine, but our feelings sometimes the same. We were optimistic about our health until that mammogram. The results threw her into a seat on the BC roller coaster, starting with a surgical biopsy.  I was freaked out enough even contemplating my stereotactic biopsy, where the doctor was going to jab something like a pencil into my breast and cut some pieces.  It sounded barbaric to me.  And I was angry.

But our results were the same:  a voice saying there's cancer.  In my case, the doctor called on the phone.  Her voice was so cheery I wanted to say:  Sure, Sunshine, it's not your breast.  I had a similar reaction when a relative said, ". . .easily treated."   

I adopted a sometimes false calm. Underneath it was some denial of fear.  I kept quiet about it.  And I got advice: be calm all is well.  But no one could know at that stage how well it was, if at all.  In truth, Barbara Brenner was right, no one ever knows yet with BC if all is well.

 My surgery was curative, but, in a way,  a second biopsy.  There was a pathology report--mixed reviews.  The surgery was a success, but the patient is in trouble.  Radiation, probably.  And five years of not-exactly-benign pills.  I didn't feel I had a right to complain, as I learned more about other women's much-worse journey.

Ms. Ehrenreich got worse news and worse treatment.  We had both done some investigating.  She didn't feel part of the sisterhood.  As she wrote:

No one among the bloggers and book writers seemed to share my sense of outrage over the disease and the available treatments. What causes it and why is it so common, especially in industrialised societies? Why don't we have treatments that distinguish between different forms of breast cancer or between cancer cells and normal dividing cells?   
She continued to notice an over-cheery denial in all breast cancer support and treatment, and denial about the how much agony and fear are caused by the treatments, not the disease.  
I salute her for all her writing, for tearing down the velvet curtain of denial and demands for optimism.  

I've found that only between two people who've experienced cancer, is humor okay.  A dear, supportive friend/survivor made me laugh out loud when he said, You know they'll keep you alive long enough to take the five years of pills.  Bless him forever.  Let the innocent bystanders keep quiet.
But I disagree with Ms Ehrenreich on one thing, that concept of cancer as a gift.   DCIS brought me closer to some people who would not otherwise be my friends, perhaps ever.  DCIS made me slow down long enough to write in here every single morning, and rant about hospitals and environment and whatever.  And made me look deeper into the medical world and the hospital world and find new goals.   
 This doesn't mean our anger was wrong.  If I forget to be angry, maybe I should put on the wall a couple "bumper stickers" like:
 The medicine I take daily is made by guys that make a dangerous pesticide. 
I wish you health.

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