Two years ago today, The New York stock exchange suspended trading. A building collapsed near Union Square, its front walls sliding off like they were made of sand. Five years ago today, I stood over my mother in a hospice bed and tried to breath for her.
A lot of people out there hear the words breast cancer and think that's it. That the breast cancer you have, is the same one I have, and the same one your mom had, and the same one your fish had, etc. But that couldn't be farther from the truth.
I was understandably upset by this new diagnosis of lymphedema. It happened to be April Fool's Day and yes, part of me was hoping that this was just one colossal prank the universe was praying on me. But it's real and devastating to me.
If you're not a doctor, please don't offer me medical advice. If you don't have cancer, don't tell me how I should be living my life. And actually, as a general rule, if you're not ME, don't tell me how I should be living MY life.
Cancer is not a competition. Oh, well, it is if you ask Official Pancreatic Action -- their latest ad campaign features a picture of a woman, with a bald head (presumably from chemo), and next to her is a quote, "I wish I had breast cancer."
Most of the articles I see about young women with cancer are about women who are mothers-- which is tragic, and breaks my heart every time I read them. But what you don't read about as often is about young women who were childless at diagnosis, and will remain childless due to cancer treatment.
People go around showing off their new pink swag like they're the bee's knees, but ask them what the symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer are, or if they've heard of triple negative breast cancer, or lymphedema, and you'll get a blank stare and a change of subject.
How the hell is a "Save the Tatas" mug supposed to save a life? In truth, it should say, "Save your money, go home, get naked, and check yourself not just for lumps, but for ALL the signs and symptoms that could possibly indicate breast cancer."
It is day six past my chemo session and the side effects this time are by far worse than before. I had been told that the affects are cumulative and that each time you will feel worse, for longer, but well, quite frankly I guess I didn't want to believe it.
Once you've been diagnosed with breast cancer, the word "worry" takes on a life of its own. You worry about the treatment working, the cancer coming back, the cancer spreading, how you're supposed to live a "normal" life. You worry. But you live. Because you have to.
I used to believe that there was a formula -- ...step on a crack, break your mother's back.
I thought that if even against my better judgement or despite my best efforts, if I indeed stepped on a crack, that I could avoid the next seven cracks and take it back.
The pinking of October has brought much awareness to breast cancer, but this rare form -- Inflammatory Breast Cancer -- is still largely unknown and is often believed to be under-reported due to its late diagnosis.
I was a 27-year-old surgical intern at New York Hospital in 1976 when I took care of my first patient who died from breast cancer. Mrs. M. was a 40-year-old woman with two young children and a loving husband.