Truth be told, I’ve quietly been wearing pink this month, pink tank tops, pink dance-wraps, pink lipstick. Not pink nail polish, since I’m still engaged in my disgusting nail biting habit. But I almost forgot to remind all of you people who read this blog that you’re supposed to be AWARE. OF. BREAST. CANCER. This month.
As if my telling you is going to do it. I mean, everywhere you look, it’s beating you upside the head right about now, right? I remember hating October even before I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Who wants to be reminded of a disgusting disease that kills many thousands of women, young and old, each year? And even if it doesn’t kill them, it puts them through the hell of surgery, chemo and radiation. Not to mention a lifetime of worry.
But yeah, I ask you to take a moment to think about it, especially because I am almost a BAD example seein as I survived it (so far), and perhaps, with all of my talk of Second Series, long distance bike rides and spackling, I might actually make it look as if breast cancer is no big deal.
Well, please allow me to point out that it is a very big deal. And please allow me to count the ways.
1. Five years ago, I was bald as a cueball, and it was only a matter of time before all of my eyelashes and eyebrows fell out.
2. From October through December of 2002, I was vaguely nauseated all the time, except when I was projectile vomiting.
3. Between August of 2002 and April of 2003, I went from 102 pounds to over 130 as the effects of illness and treatment kicked in (first I wasn’t feeling very well, so I ate for energy and comfort; then when I was diagnosed, I ate to combat stress; then when I was on chemo, I ate to battle nausea and to muster up the energy to do simply things like get up off the couch once or twice a day; then, there was menopause which permanently slowed my metabolism, only it took me about four more years for my appetite to catch up (catch down, really) with my nutritional needs.
4. There was that whole fear of dying and leaving my pre-K and Kindergarten sons motherless. That was a hoot. No, really, it was. Because instead of allowing myself to feel my fear, I pushed every feeling away. If I felt a feeling coming on, I went shopping, had a cigarette, drank a bottle of wine, dragged myself out with my single friends who encouraged me to misbehave. It was hard to interact with my children or my husband because to do so would give rise to the sense that they might need me, and I migh not be around for htme, so I pretty much ignored them. My younger son told me later that he believed that Mommy had been replaced by an evil version of herself – a “New Mommy”, who didn’t do things like cuddle and read to him or pay any attention to him at all. One day he remarked to the New Mommy, as she held him on her lap for the first time in ages, that she was reminding him of the Old Mommy. This freaked out Mommy, and Mommy decided to get a grip. Immediately.
5. There were those women who had the nerve to die of the disease while I was still battling it. That really sucked. I wasn’t mad at them at all, of course. But it was very much a reality check. Women die of breast cancer every day. If you don’t believe me, check out Young Survival Coalition’s Bulletin Boards. Right now, the young women over there are coping with the untimely death of Melinda Gordon, M.D., aka Dr. Melinda, who was not their doctor, but their friend. Dr. Melinda was a medical oncologist. But even with her vast knowledge of cancer treatments, the disease took her life. She was not even 40.
6. There was the aftermath of illness, the part where all of my friends who supported me through the illness were suddenly busy with their own lives again. I was no longer “famous”. I was no longer the center of attention. I no longer had a free pass to act like a bitch. And yet I often still felt quite bitchy. Angry. Confused. Like something really big had been taken from me.
Luckily, what had been taken from me wasn’t my life, exactly. But it was some version of my life. And it was gone forever. Along with my boobies.
Anyone who has breasts can get breast cancer. Even men. Even young people. Even pretty people. Even skinny people. Even healthy people. Early detection doesn’t mean that you get a free pass. It doesn’t even mean that you get to survive. But for the general population (those not at a known high risk), it’s really the only quiver you have for your bow.
So use it.
Feel your boobies. Even though you might be afraid.
Get a mammogram when you’re 35. Why not? And if your breasts are “dense”, which is something the mammo doctor can tell you, then get an ultrasound too.
Don’t bother buying pink scarves and pink t-shirts. Buy yogurt because you like it, not because of the color of the lid. If you want to give money for breast cancer research, write a check. There’s the Komen organization, or Estee Lauder’s fund or Avon’s fund, or better yet, Revlon’s fund, because they really used their money for something valuable – they invented Herceptin.
Breast cancer SUXCKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! People like us get it. Let’s all improve our chances in every way we can.