Okay, maybe that headline is not quite fair.
I am forgetting that I smoked for about a decade. But I quit 20 years ago. Isn't that like getting a new lung? And those 30 years of bad eating... still, I went to the gym 15 years ago, and with a vengeance. So 30 divide 15 by 20.... doesn't count?
Let's just say I'm stumped. My oncologist even agrees. I have an 'oncologist,' should be a clue?
My mother died of the same disease at 58. Me, a sprightly 51. Studies in cancer journals show that you have a 50 percent chance of getting breast cancer, even with no family history. Journals I'd peruse casually at Lebovic/Schwimmer Radiology, where they shared a table with Golf Digest, or anywhere they might have happened to cross my path. But I promise I was never operating in denial...
In fact, I would get a big laugh at that annual mammogram (a place you might say saved my life). "I'm a pretty nervous person," I used to say. "And my mom died! So, you think I'd be nervous here!" But I just never was...
Other things I'd used to very famously say: "I'll have a heart attack when I'm 90 and some doctor DOES give me bad news." (Turns out I didn't, fyi). Another joke, because of my incredible aversion to plastic surgery, "I'd never have surgery on something that didn't involve the word 'tumor!'"
Well, I was telling the truth about that one.
'Telling the truth' brings me in a roundabout way, to George W. Bush. Now, let me say, one thing everyone can agree -- Left and Right -- is he's spectacularly old news. Still, you can see I'm someone who is struggling to find a reason for this whole event. And I can distinctly remember -- the genuine grief that Bush caused me during his eight years in office. Forget about the US! And since I seem to be making a big attempt to figure out what happened to me... I am casting a very wide net.
I've had two lumpectomies, a right mastectomy, one new boob, a left lift I didn't need but turned out I wanted (see)?, AND a tummy tuck. All in defense of my (new) life. And since, as I mentioned, there did, indeed, use to be a way that I would turn every single solitary sentence into a 'Dubya reference, could tie everything bad in the world to that guy...
But how can even I make a stretch out of this one? Hmm..
I'll say this in my defense and then stop. When I proposed my theory at a party, one with many women, everyone laughed, and then said they were surprised he didn't give them breast cancer, too.
So now let me tell you the real truth. There is one reason I am giving this nutty idea one moment of credence. I do love to tell a good joke -- and this made me really laugh. It was an actual side-splitter. Well, that caught my attention! I always believe that 'comedy gold' is based in some kind of truth. And at least, then... I'd have some explanation for my disease.
But is that fair? Say, fair in a way GWB seemed to be lacking. 'I'm staring from an airplane I'm not getting out of,' as he watched Katrina hurricane victims... And Cheney's 'no-bid contracts.' (Phew phew, phew). That's the ancient Jewish curse to ward off bad spirits, btw... Still, it's hardly GWB's or Cheney's OR Rove's fault -- is it -- that I take things like my patriotism into my solar plexus (that's right about where my right breast is)! The dude's in Texas and, trust me, he's not thinking about me. He's making plans to build the George Bush Presidential Library. ... dear God, stop me before I joke again.
It will crack you up to hear I'm taking Mindful Meditation at the WeSpark Cancer Support Center, where the teacher talks about 'no mind movies.'
Flash back to the dressing room on the day of my bad news. As I sat and contemplated my upcoming fate, I'll clue you in on what I was really thinking about. Two unkind men who had broken up with me by e-mail. How I wanted for them to find out about this in a particularly painful way (that doesn't even make sense). You can see how I think.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of Mindfulness said, "The majority of women who were later found to have breast cancer had either a lifelong pattern of extreme suppression of their feelings (for the most part, anger) or of 'exploding' with emotion. Both extremes were associated with a higher risk of cancer. However, it was much more common for these women to suppress their feelings than to be 'exploders.'"
This describes me to a T. I am a poster-child for being female in my thoughts and patterns. (Not to worry, I've beat myself for thinking this way before you even have a chance to.)
I seem to live in a world where some people don't appear to suffer. I know that's not true. But now I've sat in support groups with people who are genuinely in pain. Which brings me -- back -- to George Bush.
That guy didn't seem to feel pain. I know that's also not true. Who knows what goes on in the minds of men who hurt others -- by e-mail and otherwise. But Bush seemed to me to be a guy who shucked off caring in a big way. When I say that he plagued me for eight years, I'm not joking. There was another study recently, in the New England Journal of Medicine, a study -- about women and heartache. In the New England Journal of Medicine! My heart was truly broken by that guy. (Why didn't I suffer a heart attack, instead of cancer)?? (Phew, phew, phew). Or, breathe in, breathe out.
My brother -- a guy's guy, if there ever was one -- happened to take me to my first lumpectomy at four in the morning. He's flown to town for the big event. He turns to me in the car with an eloquent rap. He mentions people in my life, and he sums me up like this: "Jode. You mourn over people who treated you like crap."
That sentence has nothing to do with our ex-President, btw.
So what if every time I see George Bush, he's grinning and opening a library with no books? Blaming my illness on George Bush just can't be healthy, in any way.
I had a 'Backwards Bush' counter I carried on my keychain, that showed the seconds to the end of his administration (it was hilarious)! In fact, I had to get another because I wore the first one out. Back to the cancer. One hour at a time turned out to be the only way I was able to cope with this cancer.
So, much in the same way there once were places I couldn't drive by -- averting my gaze by rote in pain -- from people I'd been broken up by or friends who had changed -- I was reminded during the 9/11 anniversary how I used to also turn and watch my bookshelves whenever Pres. Bush was on the telly. For eight years. So many of my responses to this cancer journey do take on that semi-automatic glaze -- except the first time I hear the words 'right mastectomy,' I sob and sob as if I were Carol Doda herself. Still, I never had an experience that I so needed to end, and I make some medical decisions, based on that need.
The clinging to things for years and years is unhealthy. The running away/turning away in the moment because this thing is too fucking painful -- turns out to be a terribly healthy survival technique. That leads me to mindfulness and comedy.
It's the first time in my life I have held a microphone. I am wearing a very tight red Calvin Klein dress I got at Ross Dress for Less. Being at the former Gilda Radner Cancer Support Center is a promising setup. I'm at an open-mike event called "Is This Thing On?" My dress has just gotten a round of applause, after I mentioned that on finding out I didn't need chemo, I went into a frenzy of designer dress sale buying, like an animal waiting for winter. You don't have to be a cancer patient to find that amusing, but it helps.
People in the audience all think I do this for a living! I get another huge laugh about something I once said during a pap smear, which I will share another time. It's pretty damn funny. I do have to admit -- right here and now -- that I mentioned George Bush. Twice. But I have to hope I'm getting wiser, every day.
Trust me, we are all just one left turn away from tragic events. Everyone. Blaming people is easy. Try to focus on what IS in your life, as opposed to what isn't. It's a waste of time and energy to miss those who are not there. And it's rude to those who are!!
Of course, this is all very easy for me to say.
But I don't seem to be dwelling on it. In fact, I'm merely mentioning it here, with you.