Tamoxifen, Sandra Lee, Mammography, and DCIS

This essay was originally published on May 13, 2015.

Who likes buffets? If you do that’s totally fine. I won’t begrudge you, but I will share my thoughts:

I think buffets are evil. I think they are a bastion for those among us who have annoying food proclivities that border on being textbook eating disorders. They are all about quantity as opposed to quality. They illustrate the inherent gluttony of North Americans who think that multiple trips to the food troughs qualify as exercise. Number of times I’ve been to Las Vegas: three; number of buffets I ate at: zero. They remind me of my insane Canadian family.

I have no idea why I have a hair across my ass about buffets. Maybe I’m trying to channel my annoyance at being bombarded with myriad opinions about breast cancer, and the underlying acrimony towards women who are stricken with it. Really, this isn’t very different from the incoherent right wing abortion/contraception/rape debates. Some segments of society want to lay the blame at our feet for our diagnoses, while simultaneously expressing frustration at not having better ways to diagnose and treat us.

Since I last blogged, I’ve read even more conflicting opinions about mammography, mastectomies, and ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). Yesterday, Sandra Lee, the Food Network personality and partner of New York governor Andrew Cuomo, announced she has breast cancer. She was diagnosed with DCIS and is undergoing a double mastectomy to avoid further treatment. Of course, the details of her diagnosis were not shared, leaving people like me wondering if there is more to it than just DCIS, which I like to describe as cancer warming up in the bullpen.

Ms. Lee’s announcement included a pledge to advocate for screening as a way to save lives, which falls in line with populist opinion, but rankles the researchers and militant feminists who swear we do ourselves more harm than good. I think by now you all know how I feel about that, but my voice is barely a whisper in the shout box. We need to open a high-profile dialogue about risk, as opposed to detection, and no one seems to be listening. You can find the risk dialogue if you search for it, but unfortunately, it’s easier to just argue the status quo than it is to start a new conversation.

I’m a little over a week into my Tamoxifen/Effexor regimen, and so far I’ve felt a few more intense hot flashes, and have had some minor digestive issues. To put it plainly, I can no longer drink hot coffee (the ice maker in my fridge is working overtime), and I’ve got my bottle of Imodium on standby. I’m hoping all this is just temporary, although I do very much enjoy iced coffee when the weather is warm.

Tomorrow, I am going for a skin test in preparation for receiving my first “vaccine” injection. I will be getting jabbed next week, during my third Herceptin infusion.

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