Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Ovaries are Cute, too

It's a good thing that Butt Cancer does not affect 1 in 8 women.

Can you imagine how very scary the month of October would be?

"Save the A-Holes!"
"Make sure you get your A-Holes checked!"

I envision special fundraisers like, "Putt Putt for the Butt Butts, get your hole-in-one!" or
"Don't use toilet paper today in honor of Butts everywhere. Let's go STREAKING!!!"

Seriously. I think breast cancer deserves attention, but so do all cancers. Because breast cancer strikes 1 in 8 women nationally, it warrants a lot of research and attention. However, the #1 cancer killer of women is actually LUNG cancer.  Sadly, you never hear about this. If I was a woman with lung cancer in the month of October, I'd be pretty pissed off.

And what about ovarian cancer, known as the "silent killer"? Ovaries may not be as cute as breasts but ovaries actually help to perpetuate the species which makes them far more valuable than breasts. And symptoms of ovarian cancer often do not appear until it's almost too late. I remember one day in the infusion center, my chemo roommate had ovarian cancer. She told me that she had been extremely bloated for MONTHS and finally took herself to the E.R.  Well, the doctor sent her home with some Maalox and that was it. After she pursued it further, her diagnosis was grim. Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month is in September, yet you hardly hear about it.

Because ovaries aren't cute.  But breasts are.

Don't get me wrong, I want a cure and I want to find the CAUSE for breast cancer just as much, if not more than the next gal. But the whole month of October is just too much for me. I just have to wonder, if breasts weren't so cute and revered, would we be swimming in a sea of Pepto this month? I really don't think so.

It has become such a circus. A big, fat, pink circus and the message is lost. Breast cancer is not cute and frilly and fun. It's the opposite of all of those things, as are all cancers. They suck, all of them.

Yet this month finds people going "braless for a cause". I still don't know how one's sacrificing her underwire for a day, helps those of us who no longer require an underwire! How exactly does your bouncing bosom help raise awareness and find a cure? It only sexualizes a deadly disease. And it causes car accidents.

Or we are subjected to tacky, disrespectful and insensitive PSAs from the Susan G. Komen crew. Click here to see it. You won't believe your eyes. I promise.

So, this month and every month, I want to honor and remember everyone who has or had any type of cancer. To my friends with brain cancer, skin cancer, prostate cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, lung cancer, bladder cancer, or cancer of the tushy, you all deserve so much more attention. Every color needs a cure.

Movember can't come fast enough.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

You Say Pinktober, I say......

I am starting to not like the color pink.  I used to (sort of) love it but now that Breast Cancer Awareness Month has started, the color reminds me more and more of the pink stuff you take for diarrhea. So, now I am calling this month....

(After a Google search, it turns out that: "We did not find any results for peptober" so I am proud to call it mine now.

And the name really is fitting because every time I see another story about a woman with breast cancer, I feel nauseous and I might have to hit the John....hard. I just can't take another sad story!!!

So, that is why I'm writing today. You will hear a lot this month about how mammograms SAVE lives! Get your TaTas checked! Go Braless for a cause! Buy this pink can of Campbell's soup and you will help save a life!

Ok, let's all get a grip, shall we? I will address Peptober in greater detail and all of the "PinkWashing" out there in some later blogs. Today, I want to talk about mammograms.

First I will say, I am not a doctor and I do not want anyone taking medical advice from me. I am just sharing my experience and want you all to learn from it and share it with your people.

Unlike Joan Lunden and Amy Robach of Good Morning America, my mammogram did not save my life. In fact, my mammogram lied to me for several years. I never missed a mammogram and every year when I went, I was told I had "dense breasts".  And every year, even prior to age 40, my Ob Gyn would do a breast exam and declare, "You have very dense breasts".  I never once thought anything of this because the doc always just left it at that. In fact, I thought having dense breasts was a good thing so I took it as a compliment!

And then December 2012 came and there were the lumps and the crease on the side of my very dense breast. I went for a mammogram and was told, "All clear, come back in a year!"  Well, if you've been following along, you know that was a big, fat hairy lie, too.  It turned out that my tumors were detectable on the ultrasound I had following this "good mammo", after I pushed for it. (My instincts knew something was wrong.)

Here's the deal with dense breasts, so listen up:

Women with dense breasts (meaning you have less fat in your breasts) have a 40-50% higher chance of getting breast cancer AND  up to 50% of tumors in women with dense breasts go UNDETECTED by the mammograms. In fact, there are now laws in several states which require doctors to tell you about your dense breasts if you have them. And now further work needs to be done to make further tests like ultrasounds or MRIs to be covered by insurance.

Breast density is like mammogram's dirty little secret. Half of women over 40 have no idea that their "normal" mammogram might not be normal at all. It's like looking for a snowball in a snow storm! Cancer is white, and dense tissue is white. So, dense breast tissue can overlap with cancers, masking them from view. Secondly, dense tissue is the part of the breast that gets cancer, not fat, so there is a higher risk of getting cancer for women with dense breasts.

I am angry today and I'm sure it's totally a delayed reaction. But the more I think about this, the angrier I get. Doctors clearly knew of my dense breasts. They knew of my family history and yet, no one ever pushed any ultrasounds for me. I feel like with these kind of cards stacked against a woman, it should have at least been explained to me. At the very least, why were no statistics provided?

Researchers have been studying breast cancer for many years. This dense breast info is nothing new, but it was new to me. It's inexcusable to trust a mammogram on millions of women and give them a false sense of security, especially with these staggering statistics. I'm starting to feel like one of those people who believe there is a cure for cancer and the pharma companies are hiding it. With all of the information available, why are patients not empowered with this information? The paranoid lady in me thinks that this whole breast cancer epidemic is just one big money making business. See what's happened to me? I was never this jaded!

I know I cannot turn back the clock. If I could, who knows if I'd still have my breasts or not. It's too late now. But it may not be too late for you. I'm sure breast cancer is not on your radar and all of the hype this month  may be just an excuse to wear pink, make pink cookies or have pink cocktails with your friends. Am I bitter? Yes. I am. But it's not just me I'm bitter about. I've lost some very dear people to this disease. Enough already! I can't bear to lose one more.

So, call this my way of spreading awareness this month. Sure, get that mammo, but go deeper. Find out if your breasts are dense. And if they are, insist on further testing.  Don't be afraid to speak up and don't ever feel intimidated by any medical professional. I've given you the statistics so now it's up to you to take matters in your own hands. Breast self-exams, in my opinion are EQUALLY important and mine is what told me something was seriously wrong. And look at yourself in the mirror. Get to know yourself!

And if you decide to wear pink this month, please make sure it doesn't resemble the Pepto variety.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right (Yes, it's about boobs....again)

I have a confession.

My last blog was originally written 4 months ago. I finally had the guts to publish it a few days ago, but now I must admit that this whole "peace process" isn't easy. Just when I think I've moved on and life has returned to "normal", I somehow regress.

It's nothing specific that causes this....no awful medical news, no major life events. In fact, life is pretty hunky dory. I've been back to work part-time at my corporate America job by day while freelance writing for a friend, and selling Ava Anderson Non-Toxic products.  (More to come on that one!).  And even though my head is spinning sometimes, I am enjoying working again and keeping busier than ever....proof that there IS life after breast cancer.  Thank you!

Life is moving forward and that feels good. But every so often, I start to feel really shitty about these implants. Having reconstructed breasts is strange and sometimes I feel like a store mannequin with the wrong body parts. Having implants after a mastectomy is not what people think it is.  Dealing with ignorant questions and comments also makes this more difficult (thankfully, this rarely happens). Some people actually look at this as a "boob job" when nothing could be further from the truth. Being asked "Why didn't you go bigger?" or "See, you got the boobs you always wanted!" really does not help. This "boob job" is the result of cancer; not exactly the "fun" kind of plastic surgery.  If I had my way, I'd take back my A cups any day of the week.

I always feel like I have to explain myself here so I'll do it again.  Here is my obligatory declaration of gratitude:

I'm grateful to be alive and cancer free. I'm grateful I could even HAVE reconstruction, as some cannot.

Yes, yes, yes. Grateful, Grateful, Grateful. BUT, it all just feels so......

WRONG. That's the word. Wrong. My body feels WRONG.

It feels odd, out of place, something-just-isn't-right kind of wrong. Like something is always strapped to my chest or I'm wearing 15 bras at once.  And that feeling is never going to go away.  From the outside, everyone says I look great and "you would never know".

But I know. And what I know is, this is not how I thought it would be, even after talking to so many women who have been through it. No one ever mentioned how strange it all feels. Why? I can't possibly be the only one feeling like this, can I?  Could I be THE only girl who feels like a Smart Car with monster truck-sized tires?

(This is no indication of how big my new ones are, just an analogy of something that is ill fitting, got it?).

Which is why I am taking a chance by publishing this blog. To let you fellow Pinkies out there know that if you, too, feel "wrong", then it's OK.  Sometimes we are too afraid to talk about these feelings because we fear that we may sound ungrateful. Well, here's a reality check for you. Having your breasts removed from your body is not normal. Having implants is not normal. Just because thousands of women are doing it to save their lives, still doesn't make it normal.  No one should ever feel guilty for missing some previously beloved body parts that were surgically removed. Give yourself permission to miss them.  And give your spouse permission too, because they are also grieving the old you. And that's OK too. They are allowed, just as you are.

I don't know when my Wrong self will feel Right again. I hope sooner than later.  In the mean time, I will accept this as part of the journey (God, I really am tired of that word!) and I hope that my new tires will help me to keep moving forward.