Tag Archives: breast cancer

The Curse of What Iffing

As someone four-and-a-half years removed from a breast cancer diagnosis, I’ve reached the point in my recovery where I “what if” myself all the time. I’ve moved past the consistent routine of doctors appointments and testing that were de rigueur during treatment and the clinical trial I took part in. That leaves me with a lot of spare time, and plenty of room in my brain case to ponder what I did or didn’t do during my treatment.

For example, I keep going back to the four week period between chemotherapy and radiation where I seriously considered not doing radiation. At that point, I’d had a PET scan and 16 chemo treatments that, as far as I was concerned, killed enough evil in my body and psyche. I didn’t see the point in roasting myself, as I referred to it, on top of all that. The logic wasn’t there. But, I went ahead and did it. The problem I had was, what if I don’t do it and the cancer comes back? So, I went ahead and submitted myself to 34 trips to the giant rotisserie.

Then, after my oncologist and I determined that I was really and truly post-menopausal, I decided to switch from Tamoxifen, the gold-standard of estrogen-inhibiting drugs, to an aromatase inhibitor, which is meant to kill any remaining estrogen your pituitary gland might have the audacity to secrete. I spent eight months of misery on that drug, and boy was I sorry. I went back to Tamoxifen and promised to re-visit the situation once I’ve been on it a full five years.

In December, 2017, I discovered that I had atrial flutter, which is an irregular heartbeat. I was subjected to a battery of tests and had to take a beta blocker and blood thinner for a couple of months. Then, I scheduled myself for a procedure called a cardiac ablation, where a doctor specializing in cardiac electrophysiology, went up through my leg with electrodes to zap the area of my heart that was not beating regularly. A year later, my heart is fine, but I still cannot feel parts of my right leg.

Just before Thanksgiving, I came down with a cold and cough so epic, I thought I would never recover. Pre-cancer, I never had any issues with my lungs, save for one episode of bronchitis when I was in my 30s. Now, any cold I get settles immediately in my left lung, making me cough and wheeze like a three-pack-a-day smoker. I’ve never before felt a rattling sensation in my lung, and it is not pleasant. And for the record, I halfheartedly smoked Parliament cigarettes for about five minutes in high school.

Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot about over-treatment of breast cancer. The consensus now seems to suggest that women are receiving too much chemo and too many sessions on the rotisserie. Given that my diagnosis included a spread to my lymph nodes, I was told that the treatment I received would be very aggressive. What I wasn’t told was how bad the fallout would be years after treatment ended. I don’t think there is any doctor who would tell you that residual side effects from cancer treatment don’t change you physically and psychologically, but I do think there is a pact among medical professionals to downplay the aftermath. For example, the cardiologist who performed the ablation procedure, along with the general cardiologist I saw prior, were both reluctant to admit that my heart problems might have been caused by radiation treatment. In my case, it’s easier to say, you’re an overweight, middle-aged woman, what do you expect? Of  course you’re going to have heart problems at some point. Not that it matters now; the damage is done and I have to deal with the consequences of my decisions.

It’s human nature to question yourself when you get to a certain point in life. So many questions start with the phrase, “What if…” that you want to delete it from your vocabulary. I have my share of regrets, but the most difficult ones to reconcile are the ones that have to do with the decisions I’ve made about my health. It sucks to feel like shit for as long as I have, and to have trained professionals de-emphasize what you’ve been through. I’ve been gone since the dawn of the “Me Too” movement, and many people think this is a problem experienced only by women. I’m not so sure. Maybe if the medical establishment treated its patients with more empathy, I wouldn’t feel this way.

What if we could be kinder to each other and not look at each other like parts on an assembly line? What if we stopped and listened instead of trying to wrap things up quickly in order to move on to the next task? What if…

 

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WEN By Chaz Dean Summer Honey Peach and Summer Mango Coconut

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer and learned that I would need to undergo chemotherapy and radiation after my mastectomy, there was a moment when I realized I would eventually be bald. At that point in my life, my hair wasn’t in particularly great shape. I had stopped coloring it, and wasn’t getting regular haircuts, partly because I couldn’t afford them.

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Dissembling In Order to Save My Life

One of the biggest lessons cancer taught me is that it comes in many different forms. When a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, it is simply not  just cancer. There are many different types of breast cancer, and once the type is determined, doctors can decide how best to treat it.

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Walking, Eating, and Thinking Myself Into Oblivion

It’s the first really warm day of the season here in the Pacific Northwest, and I should be out doing something in the sunshine. Instead, I am reading one woman’s story about why she stopped participating in breast cancer walks. I am also hungry. After I posted my tale about the rigmarole I’m being forced to go through in order to have weight loss surgery, I made some drastic changes to my diet. I had to come to terms with the fact that this is one battle I will not win unless I lose. Unless of course I miraculously find $50,000 in my travels.

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Preparing For Weight Loss Surgery After Breast Cancer

Back in January, I mentioned that after enduring many frustrating months of bureaucratic boondoggle, I received approval from my insurance provider to pursue having weight-loss surgery. The process began in earnest the other day, and like the time spent waiting for corporate bean-counters to give me their official okey-dokey, I’m looking at yet another steep, uphill climb.

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Why Kim Kardashian’s Nude Selfies Piss Me Off

I’m coming up on two years of dealing with the breast cancer “experience”, and the more time that passes, the more I am beginning to resent the impact cancer has had on my life. As much as I truly don’t miss having breasts, I sometimes wish I could take leave of my body to prove a point to other women. Life doesn’t revolve around what your breasts, your ass, your legs, and every other body part looks like. You don’t have to be stricken with cancer to attain that mindset.

Sometimes, I wonder what would happen if Kim Kardashian were diagnosed with breast cancer. I’m not wishing evil on her, but I wonder if she would choose to do what’s best for her health rather than compromise it by attempting to preserve a couple of hanging glands that might eventually kill her. Her body is, after all, her golden ticket. Do not attempt to kid yourself by believing society does not value looks above all else. It is obvious that we are more obsessed now than we have ever been.

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I Am a Woman Who Hates Other Women

In honor of National Women’s Day I give you this post, which was also published on Medium.com.

Last week, I had lunch with a writer friend of mine. We met almost two years ago, introduced by a mutual Internet friend who put us together because she had gone through breast cancer surgery and reconstruction, and I was about to embark on a similar journey. We hit it off instantaneously, not because we had illness in common, but because we shared the same perspective about our gender: we are both women who hate other women.

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Please Shut Up and Go Away

 

Yeah, we see you have a big rock, but it doesn’t draw enough attention away from your big, stupid mouth.

It’s been a particularly busy week in the assholery department, starting off with an unprecedented amount of ignorance towards Syrian refugees, and ending with a dumb blonde (let’s be completely honest here) attempting to convince the world that Charlie Sheen tried to give her AIDS.

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Am I the Invisible Woman?

I need to preface this post by saying that outside of the old “Wonder Woman” television series from the 70s, I am not a big fan of Marvel Comics and female superhero characters. I’m just not; it’s never been my thing.

It’s no secret that many women have fraught relationships with their bodies (I’m no exception), and our hearing is hypersensitive to comments about them. We can manage to go spontaneously deaf when we are critiqued for our work performance, our parenting skills, and countless other tasks, but god forbid other individuals criticize our bodies; then we’ve got our Miracle Ears turned up to 11.

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Large and Not In Charge (Thanks, Breast Cancer)

I’ve been joking quite a bit lately about reaching the “parade float” portion of the breast cancer experience, and it turns out my humor has been spot on. I found out on Thursday that I’ve gained a little over ten pounds since July, and my lymph node-deficient left arm seems to be growing larger by the day. This has lead me to wonder how many Macy’s employees it would take to escort me down Broadway during the annual Thanksgiving Day parade (Snoopy has quite the entourage).

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