Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Things Doctors Say . . .

. . . I will preface, I am skeptically enthusiastic about my new GYN. I had to find her because my other new GYN, whom I was skeptically enthusiastic about last year, has ditched conventional GYN care.  My newest newbie, who is no-nonsense and a look-you-in-the-eye kinda gal, won brownie points with me today when she performed my ultrasound in-office, had read my med hx, and essentially confirmed that the radiologist who reads my PetScans is a moron: (1) contrary to his findings (which he confirmed after a second look) I do NOT have a prominent uterus displaying heterogeneous metabolic activity; and (2) contrary to his findings (which he confirmed after two second looks) I have NOT spontaneously re-grown my right ovary - a little item that was surgically removed in 1981 during a right-salpingo ooverectomy. She did, however, find dime-sized cysts...but that is another appointment and not of any remarkable concern.

Then, my newbie said the darnedest thing.

I was thinking about you yesterday.

Really, because it was birthday?

Chuckle...no, but Happy Birthday!  A patient who came in yesterday was visibly upset. I asked her what was wrong. She told me that her BFF had just died. Apparently her friend had been diagnosed with breast cancer three years prior. A few weeks ago this friend started having shortness of breath. She was diagnosed with Valley Fever and her PCP started treating her as such. Then she started having headaches. When she collapsed and taken to hospital, they found she had masses in both her lungs and brain. She died 5 days later.

I immediately thought of you.


What is your doctor doing about your breathing issues?

The antibiotics didn't work. The breathing treatment worked only for a day. The steroid shot too only gave relief for a day. They want to now assess me for Valley Fever.

Get a second opinion if that is the conclusion.



Friday, October 19, 2012

Six-Word Memoir: PINKTOBER




                    THIRTY PERCENT....


Six-Word Memoir® challenge


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Things People Say . . .

. . . to those with cancer and their loved ones.

My husband's elder cousin, who is 82, was inquiring (while he was on a speaker phone at our office),

How are things going with TC, is there anything we should know?

Well, her last PetScan has some oddities that she is following up on, and they found another small tumor in her lymph nodes.

Sorry to hear that. Well radiation will knock that out, right?

TC has never opted for radiation or chemotherapy.

Well, if it is any consolation, our friend Mr. J., they found a tumor. They checked him into the hospital and gave him an intense doses of radiation and kicked that tumor right out of him!

Glad to hear that.

Yeah, well, he caught MRSA in the hospital and died 3 days later - nasty case. But that radiation sure worked on the tumor!


Saturday, October 13, 2012

MBC Awareness Day - The Darkside of the Pink Ribbon-Fest


Today, October 13th, is Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day. YES, this select subset of Journeyers get one day out of the entire Pinktober-fest. One day out out of 31, to bring attention to that form of breast cancer that claims the lives of women & men at an average rate of 40,000 per year. That significant statistic is only for the U.S. Approximately 470,000 die each year world-wide. Such little attention has, historically, been given to MBC - either in "awareness" or in research. MBC is the dark underside of the Pink Ribbon. I do not often paraphrase Stalin, actually, this is my first time, but it seems fitting. Sadly, in the world of MBC, one death is a tragedy but thousands seem to be merely a statistic.

I wrote the following in February 2010 - just over 6 months after my initial diagnosis; while I was still in the throws of multiple surgeries; and while I was still in the midst of embracing my own cancer journey. This was in response to the dearth of information and mis-information that I was having to contend with as I groped my way along a well-chartered, but equally mystifying path. It seemed apropos to reprint again, as I continue to stumble along the routeway of MBC.

Please to Meet You...Can You Guess My Game?

You pay homage to me
With candlelight's,
With relays, and
Pale pink parades.
You go through these motions, notions
and emotions half-veiled and dazed.
Caring, yet not comprehending the dark nature of my true game.

I have marched on,
I have latched on,
I live due to the choices you have made.
You're dumb-founded and scared, and
Emboldened and brazen.
And I enjoy this pink badge of honor,
Celebrating the carnage left in my wake.
Yet you don't seem to understand when you meet me,
Thou you flippantly market my game.

You clamor to the life I've taken -
Fear gripping you like a vise,
Yet celebrating with ribbons and vigils
And solemn events to light up the night.
Yet I still seize, clutch, and penetrate,
Creating breastless creatures with the disease I rake.
And in response you raise your banners and tie your pink laces,
Feigning a civilized calm, within the din of despair,
Yielding and railing at the call of my name.

I enjoy an enviable market niche,
A public relations dream with a broad reach.
I bring many persons together
To walk,
To share,
To cry, and
To prescribe.
Together you'll meet me, step-to defeat me and fight,
While still shunning from the meaning of the game that I play,
For the "greater purpose" you cling to me me, giving life to my name.

I'm embraced,
I'm battled,
I'm run for, and against.
I raise warriors in pink,
I raze survivors inside and out.
You speak awareness of who I am,
Yet I'm still the ever uninvited guest.
You know me, but you choose not to see,
Past the Madison Avenue glitz; and
In the whispers of your fears, my name is endorsed on your lips.

You make me t-shirts and teddy bears,
Coffee cups and pins
You celebrate my name,
In the hopes that YOU will win?
I'm on bracelets and billboards,
T.V. ads and magazines.
You use me to bond women together,
Through hats, key chains and I.V. scenes.
You want to be rid of me, wrench me from your breast,
While still elevating my name like some personal test.

You breathe and drink me, in
The chemicals you create.
The ones that both heal and do harm.
You willingly open your body to my sin.
Your lust for luxuries simply invites me in.
Through cosmetics,
Beauty creams,
Hair color,
Deodorants, and
You gulp me down in plastic bottles.
Swallow me hungrily in pills.
You ingest me in the foods you eat,
And still,
You come gripped with shock and dismay,
And curse when you greet me,
Still stoically refusing to take personal ownership of my game!

I bring sorrow,
You bring hope -
And wrap yourself in courage desperately borrowed.
I bring profit -
Greedily spawned from your daughters,
Yet you say you know me, with no knowledge.
And you keep coming to me in droves,
Throwing away your intuition,
Innate sense and well being, no longer trusting your own.
You claw at and cling to the coattails of Big Pharma,
Opening your veins up to the corporate dogma.
Good patients burn flesh and sear mind under the guise of a pink banner,
And savor Red Devil cocktails, while
Quality of life becomes nothing but face-book banter, of
Buzz words, fly-bys, statistics, wigs, and trials,
As you uncomfortably nestle blindly in my surreal guile.

Am I nature,
Am I man-made, or
A product of freakish DNA?
You don't know,
You don't ask,
You lock-step on.
You want only to walk on the pink runway,
Fear as your drum.
All the while feeling empowered,
Rallying with the pink-media monster, who
Romanticizes the call,
To join the growing roster forged in my name,
And trust that I am very pleased to shroud you in the nature of my game!

- TCShanker (aka "TC")
February, 2010

# # #

To gain greater insight into the MBC Community; the grass roots movements to educate the general as well the Pink-Public as to MBC; and to make this deadly aspect of breast cancer a priority in funding & research, please explore the following resources. Thank you for taking the time this October 13th, and beyond.


From support groups to funding vital research, our programs sustain the power of hope. Passionately committed patients ourselves, we rally public attention to the urgent needs of the metastatic breast cancer (MBC) community, help patients find strength through support and purpose, and make EVER dollar count as we work with researchers to regain longevity with quality of life.

Metastatic Breast Cancer Network

MBCN is a national, independent, nonprofit, patient advocacy group dedicated to the unique concerns of the women and men living with metastatic breast cancer . We strive to help those living with stage IV breast cancer be their own best advocate through providing education and information on treatments and coping with the disease.
National Foundation for Cancer Research
Even after successful removal of a primary tumor, cancer patients still live under the constant fear that a few cancer cells have escaped the surgery, and that these cells may eventually become secondary tumors in other locations of the body. Presently, there has been insufficient research on the root cause of metastasis, which means that there are no effective medical strategies to prevent or stop cancer once it has spread. Although chemotherapy drugs are used to inhibit the cancer metastasis, this form of treatment often leads to debilitating side effects which diminish the quality of life for patients and their families.

There is an urgent need f or better methods to prevent and treat metastasis. Due to the complex nature of this aspect of cancer, extensive research collaboration among scientists is essential to tackle this problem. Critical as it is, research funding in this field is severely limited. Of the $6.2 billion dollars allocated to the National Cancer Institute for cancer research, less than 1% of that budget focuses on research trying to understand the fundamental mechanisms of cancer metastasis.

The metastasis of cancer cells is the greatest cause of lethality from tumors. Despite this fact, metastasis remains a relatively understudied area with a corresponding lack of understanding of the metastatic process. The research presented above has already provided new insights into the causes and mechanisms of cancer cell metastasis.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

"31 Truths" the Pink Ribbon Does Not Tell

http://www.breastcancerdeadline2020.org/breast-cancer-information/31-truths/ (check out this URL for the complete history behind each of these Truths)

Over 2 ½ million women in the United States have a history of breast cancer.

About 40,000 women and 450 men die from breast cancer each year in the United States.

Breast cancer accounts for nearly a quarter of all cancers in women worldwide.

Men do get breast cancer.

The biggest risk factors for breast cancer are being a woman and growing older.The average age of diagnosis is 61.

Most women who are diagnosed with breast cancer do not have a family history of the disease.

Most people think they have a higher risk of breast cancer than they actually do.

While breast cancer mortality has gone down in recent years, too many women still die of the disease each year.

The mortality rate from breast cancer is higher for African American women than for white women and women of other races.

All breast cancers are not the same; there are different types of breast cancer.

We do not know how to prevent the spread of breast cancer to other parts of the body (metastasis).

For the majority of people with breast cancer, treatment options have changed very little in the last 20 years.

The treatments for DCIS and invasive breast cancer can themselves lead to severe side effects, including death.

Early detection is not the answer. Finding and treating all Stage 0 breast cancer, or DCIS , will not prevent all deaths from breast cancer.

In many cases, more treatment is not necessarily better treatment.

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) may increase your risk of breast cancer.

There are many unproven and uncertain risk factors for breast cancer cited in the media and among the public.

Most women who find their own breast cancer do so as part of normal routines (showering, getting dressed, etc.) not during systematic monthly breast self-exams.

Mammography is not prevention. Getting regular mammograms does not prevent you from getting breast cancer.

Five year breast cancer survival rates do not give an accurate picture of progress against breast cancer.

Breast cancer awareness campaigns have helped move the disease from behind closed doors but have not had a significant impact on the incidence of Stage 4 disease or on mortality.

To end breast cancer, research must focus on understanding how to prevent the disease from developing and on how to stop the disease from spreading to other parts of the body.

We will not see a significant decrease in breast cancer mortality without a better understanding of breast cancer metastasis.

Women with breast cancer deserve evidence-based treatments that have been proven effective.

Once there is a cure, breast cancer will still not end until everyone everywhere has access to health care.

The media do not always get it right when reporting on breast cancer.

Your tax dollars fund a significant amount of breast cancer research.

Breast cancer survivors can learn and understand science, and can help influence the direction of breast cancer research.

Great scientific achievements have been accomplished in less than 10 years.

Breast cancer advocates can—and will—lead an effort to end breast cancer by 2020.

It will take collaboration among many groups and stakeholders to meet Breast Cancer Deadline 2020®.


Monday, October 8, 2012

A "WOW...REALLY?!!" Moment


Saturday, October 6, 2012

Pinktober Pictorial Perspective - Unfurling the Pink Ribbon

Test your Pinktober I.Q. - Which picture raises your AWARENESS of the disease that has been killing women (and yes, men too) at a rate of 40,000 per year since our grandmothers were being diagnosed? 
(Caution: Contains graphic content. Only scroll down if you really want to know what breast cancer looks like unwrapped from the pink trappings.) 
Barbie does Breast Cancer, for 6+ years of age.
Indoctrinating a younger audience that breast cancer is Pretty & Pink.
Soon every 6 year old will want to be a member of our
ever-expanding "club"!
Prepping for the Sentinel Node Biopsy.
First step is  to be injected with nuclear matter. Yes it does hurt.

Hard Rock's 2012 edition is a double-necked
blinged out guitar. Last year was single-necked.
Maybe this is for the double-mastectomy crowd?

To the left is one of the potential side-effects of radiation treatment.
Yes, the skin can get that damaged.
To the right is a potential side-effect of the Sentinel Node Biopsy - lymphedema.
Lymphedema can be debilitating, and a life-long issue.  Granted, "life-long" for a breast cancer journeyer carries a different meaning than for the non-journeying population.

There is actually a contest for the
most inspirational quote. You too can
have your words pressed against the
scarred bosom of a breast cancer journeyer.
The surgical search for those pesky lymph nodes that
can indiscriminately carry cancer cells throughout a person's body.

While I appreciate the efforts of the NFL. And, admittedly, a buff athlete in
tight stretch pants, flexing his "guns", may give me pause to rethink my abhorrence of pink. On the other-hand, I think the NFL should stick to trying to ameliorate the traumatic brain injuries their own players are incurring. BTW, the full add said a whole 10 cents on the dollar went to breast cancer research. Guess the NFL learned nothing after the recent referee strike.

Pinkwashing Retail Awareness. Enough said.
Yes, this is what a mastectomy scar looks like 2-3 weeks after the surgery. The drainage tubes have been removed. Thank goodness, otherwise this reality would really be scary looking!
Yes, ladies and gentlemen - THIS IS BREAST CANCER!
Not pretty, but maybe a little pinkish.

Awareness for breast cancer?  or an ad to save
the local strip joint, "Tatas," from closing down?

Smith & Wesson...and your thought was what?
If breast cancer and its progeny doesn't kill you,
try this????
Chemo. It sucks.
No matter what your opinion as to this poison-filled, conventional treatment.

Damn...I like penguins.
Not sure I want one squishing my "boobs", however. Oh, forgot I don't have real "boobs" anymore. How about we just squish the Boob who thought this was clever??

Double mastectomy, approximately
two months after surgery. I don't think Pinkwashing
Retail Awareness is going to help.

Chicken should not be pretty or pink. Even fake chicken.
Petrol containers for Breast Cancer!
How apropos. After all, we slather ourselves in petrol each and every day. Its in our soaps, shampoos, cosmetics...and we pay top dollar for these carcinogens. Read your labels: paraffin; sodium lauryl sulphate, ammonium lauryl sulphate, dibutyl, phthalate, butyl benzl phthalate, parabens (butyl, ethyl, propyl isobutyl), benzoates, tolune, methlybenzene, dimethicone, propylene glycol .... to name a few.

Chicken should not be pretty or pink, or canned, or sodium filled...

Cardiac Pre-Tamponade in Metastatic Breast. In other words, the breast cancer has spread to the cardiac structure.

I reiterate, in the event the point is still not apparent. Breast Cancer is NOT pretty and pink!
Actually, this IS a t-shirt I might wear to Trader Joe's
during the weekly shopping trip!
Related PINKTOBER Posts:

Kindly...STOP Waving the Pink Ribbon in My Face - http://boo-bee-trap.blogspot.com/2010/09/dichotomy-of-breast-cancer.html