Archive for Cancer

Back to this blog’s (pink) roots…

So, it’s only the first week of October and I’m already completely fed up with Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This must be some sort of record. It is going to be a long month.

Really. Is there anyone out there who is not aware of breast cancer who is going to be made aware of it as a result of BCAM? Will they see the pink bottles of 24 Hour Energy or pink cans of Campbell’s soup or the new password in the Crown Room Club and suddenly realize there’s breast cancer in the world? Does the NFL really expect conversations like:

“Hey Jimmy Joe, what’s with the pink socks on our team? Did the equipment manager throw a red shirt in with them by mistake when washing them?”

“No Bobby Ray, the socks are for breast cancer awareness.”

“Breast cancer?”

“Yeah, it’s a disease that says ‘is caused by the development of malignant cells in the breast. The malignant cells originate in the lining of the milk glands or ducts of the breast (ductal epithelium), defining this malignancy as a cancer.'”

“Wow Jimmy Joe, sounds important. I’m sure glad they’re wearing them pink socks so I could learn about breast cancer!”

Even worse is when some awareness events badly send the wrong message. A local hospital all of a sudden has a whole bunch of plastic pink flamingos in front of it. “How cool” you might think. “Neat to have so many of those pretty birds” you might say. “Nice to see so many of them.”

But in fact, it’s not nice to see so many of them. Each represents a breast cancer patient the hospital has had in the last 2 years. You should want to see fewer of them, not more. But they picked something cool like flamingos to represent the patients, really screwing up the message. (The library in Macon puts out a bunch colorful pinwheels once a year. Really pretty until you realize each represents a report of child abuse. So then you feel bad at liking all the pretty pinwheels. Shesssh.)

Cancer does suck. I’m coming up on 10 years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer almost 40 years ago and it was much worse then. Her treatment was so hard on her, she decided not to go through it again and died of cancer at age 60. I on the other hand was back at work the day after chemo. Lots of progress has been made, but not much as a result of pink inner tubes, I don’t think.

But let me tell you, as I was dealing with breast cancer 10 years during BCAM, all the pink sure didn’t make it easier on me. I was really looking forward to a weekend at Florida Tech since that seemed like a place that wouldn’t be overflowing with pink. I was wrong and still resent all the “Real Men Wear Pink” posters I had to deal with between my biopsy and getting the final diagnosis.

Yes, breast cancer is a problem. It killed over 41,000 in the US in 2013. But colon cancer killed over 52,000 and lung cancer killed over 156,000. Still, it’s not as sexy to go around with ribbons and soup cans and flamingos for colons. (They’d have to be brown, wouldn’t they?)

And lung cancer, well, that’s all the victim’s fault, right?

It’s gonna be a long month. I think I’d be happier (oh, let’s be honest, I know I’d be happier) if I thought all this pink was really doing something more than letting people give an extra dollar for a pink lemonade or ribbon shaped bagel and feel like they’ve done their part toward curing cancer.

So, if you care, please don’t just buy a pink ribbon (magnetic or fabric). Don’t buy a super special pink thing where they’ll give extra money to breast cancer. (The worst example of this that I know of is not breast cancer related. It’s SmileTrain’s association with Vertu cell phones–buy a $5,000 phone and they’ll give $250 to charity. Sheesh–why not buy a $1,000 phone and give $4,000 to charity? Well, then you won’t have a $5,000 cell phone.)
Give platelets. Knit a tit. Or a shawl or a cap. If you know someone dealing with cancer, take them dinner, even if she says she doesn’t need it–it really makes a difference (thanks Bob!) Or take them to chemo. Or watch their kids. Or just go out drinking for an evening and let her pretend everything is normal (thanks Fran and Ann and all my church ladies). Or send them a funny card (thanks Carol!). Or give money directly to some cancer charity or other or hospice for when it gets really bad.

At least I’m not alone in this…yay¬†think before you pink!


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Final surgery?

So, since I got cancer at 48, I was genetically tested.

Since I got genetically tested, I found out I had a greatly increased risk of ovarian cancer.

Since I had a a greatly increased risk of ovarian cancer, I had my ovaries removed, lapiroscopically

Since I had lapiroscopic surgery and am so overweight, I had a umbilical hernia.

And I had maybe my last cancer-related surgery on December 27 to sew up the hernia.

And, while I’m happy that the pain related to the hernia will be gone, I am so pissed that I still hurt and am stiff 3 days after the surgery.

So, while the surgery may have made my tummy better, it hasn’t made me any more reasonable. Like that’s a big surprise.

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An R rated entry

Okay, get all the small children off the blog. The language is going to get sorta salty. The way I’d talk if I didn’t work at a Baptist university. The way I talked that got me through three years in the Army.

And don’t worry, I’m fine, but dreadfully self absorbed.

Two things to carry on about as you’re hustling the little ones out.

First, why is sex bad and violence okay in movie ratings? We want our kids to grow up to be happy sexual beings, not violent ones, so shouldn’t we be happier to have them see a lot more happy sex than violence?

And second, Mercer is re-examining its Baptist heritage. It’s really ridiculous. I went to a meeting last week. They all talked about how Mercer wasn’t southern and Baptist like most people think when they hear “Southern” and “Baptist” together. They want to be the happy, good tolerant Baptists. Seems there were some in the 1600s in New England. And yeah, there are some now. They want to be “Buddy Shurden Baptists.” He is one of the good ones. But who really knows that.

Sure. So, suppose I’m a high school student looking at colleges. I see Mercer. I see Baptists. Since I’m one of the smart ones, I realize Mercer is in Georgia and Georgia is in the south and I figure out transitivity and think southern Baptist and don’t read the pages of explanation that say “No, not that kind of Baptist.” Sheesh.

Okay, got the little ones gone?

Damn, damn, damn, damn, damn. (Don’t worry, it’ll get worse.)

There is way too much metastasizing going on. Yes, Elizabeth Edwards, but I’ve already commented on her.

But, to have something new to say, I’m a host for a John Edwards fund raiser. Yeah, a host! In less than two weeks. He’ll be at a private home (not ours, or I’d be too busy cleaning to post) in Macon and there’ll be a letter going out inviting others to come and I’m one of the ones doing the inviting (our last Democratic governor is another one doing the inviting). Cool, no? So, if you’re in the area and want to contribute to the campaign and meet the senator (I may get to talk to him next week during a phone conference and during tonight’s phone conference about this all they casually talked about “the senator”–way too cool), let me know.

Oh, they did let us know Elizabeth would be on Oprah Friday, too. So cool.

So, to show cancer is an equal opportunity pain in the ass, Tony Snow goes and has his cancer metastasize too. Now, I normally think of Snow as mostly soulless, but he does have a liver and its cancerous and I have to feel sorry for him.

But, much closer to home, a woman who went 6 months before me into this breast cancer thing, a wife of a coworker of Charlie’s, a woman who has sent all sorts of supporting email, just found out her cancer metastasized. Her blog is still positive, but she’s got at least three tumors in her brain, skull, and lungs. She’s got a full body scan tomorrow to see what else is happening.

And what the fuck can I do for her? Sure, I’ll light a candle or two, send a card, but…

And now the embarrassing, self absorbed part. This is far more frightening to me than having cancer was. With cancer, they knew what to do and there were things I needed to do to treat it. Hell, there was even a book they gave me at the oncologists–they had it so well figured out.

But this waiting for cancer that you thought you killed to show up again? That’s not in the fucking book.

So, now every silly little ache and pain I have is “maybe cancer.” Normally, I wouldn’t even bother, but boy, I’d hate to be wrong about my trigger finger. Sure, it’s probably the sheath rubbing against the tendon, but wouldn’t I feel stupid if it were a tumor? These other women didn’t think their problems were cancer when they saw their doctors.

So, do I go running to the doctor about these aches? (I already talked to him about trigger finger, so he won’t hear that again.) I don’t want to be a hysterical woman. Of course, there’s little chance of that happening for the next couple of visits. He thinks I was fooling myself when I told him the breast tumor might just be an insect bite, when I was really trying to stay calm and not blow things up prematurely.

But what the fuck do I do? Pretend none of it is cancer? Behave like all of it is? Stop watching the news until this wave of metastasizing is done?

In writing this, I have figured one thing out. Charlie was more worried than I about my initial diagnosis because he’d never known anyone close who recovered from cancer. He watched his grandfather and my mother die pretty lousy deaths from it. But I watched Mom recover from breast cancer, so I wasn’t too worried about it.

But I did watch Mom die a dreadful death from metastatic cancer. Lung, brain, and, in the end, all over her body. So that’s the one that bothers me. Because that’s the one I’d never seen anyone recover from.

But maybe you can, so maybe I can relax a little. Especially since it’s just trigger finger.

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A vote for Edwards

So, I’m sitting watching the 60 Minutes interview with John and Elizabeth Edwards. And I’m just amazed at how many people want to tell them how to deal with cancer.

My two cents? This is their cancer. This is their decision. Butt out.


Now, this is easy for me to say. I made pretty much the same decision Elizabeth Edwards made. I stayed at work. And lots of people seemed to think I wouldn’t do that. Both my associate dean and the new president welcomed me back at the beginning of the fall semester. Okay, I did go to Europe over the summer, but that’s not what they were welcoming me back from. They just assumed I’d stopped working when I got cancer.

When I did stop working, over Christmas break, and just sat around and had cancer, it almost drove me crazy. I was so much happier when I was at a conference a year ago and had to argue with the wife of a colleague “No, I’m not kidding; I do have breast cancer. Really.”

But there’s clearly a lot more to Elizabeth Edwards than having cancer. And if she wants to focus on that other stuff, she’s got my vote.

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Sad Surprises

Ya know, I really thought this cancer thing was over. At least for me.

I went to see my oncologist Monday and had nothing to report. Except that they really need to work on keeping the staff informed. Molly Ivins died of breast cancer last weekend. When the new physician’s assistant came in to talk to me and I mentioned my big concern was how to prevent being like Molly Ivins. The PA had no idea who I was talking about.

My mother was in a funk for days over Betty Ford’s and Happy Rockefeller’s mastectomies. And this was years before her problems, even while my dad and I were making bad jokes about the boobs in the White House (we weren’t big fans of Gerald Ford). If you’re in the cancer industry, you need to know about cancer in the news. Your patients do!

But I had a friend, a supporter through my cancer and through life, call to tell me last night that she had breast cancer, again. And I just sat last night and thought about her. I put aside the great books I had to read in favor of Cancer Vixen, a graphic novel (or, as it is better known to people my age, comic book). And nothing else seemed to matter.

And today I got email that a member of Cancer Wellfit died last night. He was “supposed” to have died over a year ago. But he was back and far better on the walking track than I’ll ever be. He delighted in beating the odds before. He delighted in life.

I didn’t think that the whole “cancer thing” would have major long term effects on me. I know some survivors who completely turn their lives around based on having cancer and become almost “full time cancer survivors.” They wear pink ribbons everywhere and do all sorts of stuff for the Komen Foundation and read every issue of Mamm Magazine. But I haven’t done that. I’m much more involved in Kids Yule Love that Relay for Life. I subscribe to Threads, not Mamm. I still don’t wear pink.

But the last 24 hours of news has made me realize that surviving cancer means more than things in my medical records…

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A Surgery Not My Own

Yes! It’s happening.

I’m going to surgery Wednesday and I’m not the patient.

It’s about damn time.

Okay, so I should be a little more compassionate for my poor husband. He’s the one having surgery. But it really is minor. At least in my opinion. Remember, when we first met my oncologist, he asked if we knew the definition of “minor surgery.” Boy, did we shock him when we both answered “surgery that happens to someone else.” We also took away his starting joke.

Still, any surgery they let me sit in during can’t be that bad. And I’ll probably get to sit in during this one. Charlie needs to have a cyst removed. He could probably live with it, but we went through two other cysts for years and years and the agony he’d be in during flare ups was awful We had to have another removed while on a business trip during the first big snow of the year in Indianapolis. No fun at all. So, when the doctor gave surgery as the third possible choice of how to deal with this bump/rash/itching Charlie’s had for the last two weeks, he jumped at it (and if he hadn’t jumped, I was ready to push).

About four years ago, Charlie went to this same doctor to have another cyst removed. It was an old, well in-grown one. Charlie got happy drugs and just laid face down on the table. I got to watch the festivities from a chair in the corner. It was a zoo. Since we’re at the med school, the doctor has a brand new med student with him. So new he was explaining how to put on gloves. We also had a new nurse in a new room so no one knew where anything was. Instead of a surgerical kit, the nurse opened a catheter, which Charlie really didn’t need. When they finally got gloved up and started, they discovered the sanitary drape was upside down, so their hands immediately stuck to the adhesive that was supposed to hold the drape to Charlie’s back. So they got to repeat the lesson on how to put on gloves. And the cyst was huge under the skin, so it took hours to pull it all out. They almost filled a garbage can with bloody cloths and more than once the doctor looked like he just wanted to sew it up and send Charlie on to a surgeon, since the job was so much bigger than expected.

Now, to the doctor’s credit, nothing phased him. He stayed calm and patient with everyone throughout. He was an astonishing teacher. And he finished the job at about 6 on a Friday afternoon.

Things will be much better this Wednesday. This is a brand new cyst that hasn’t had time to get grown in.

And if I laugh too much or give Charlie a hard time, he’ll be able to get back at me in just two days when I get my port catheter removed.

Got to go…Ike has just dropped a fabric ball in his water and is trying to figure out what to do with a wet ball. The dog is over giving him ideas, so soon they’ll be fighting like cats and dogs with a wet ball.

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