Blinding Light

The lively conversations surrounding celebrities and their publicized breast cancer experiences have been fascinating—yes, I’m obviously talking about the Robach and Lunden double feature of recent months. I am working on a post about it, if I can get some time to finish, that will be amazing.

But one aspect that greatly disturbs me I have actually dealt with before. I keep reading comments praising the women, for “shining a light on breast cancer”, that “any” attention on breast cancer is good and needed.


Yes, yes, I know I benefited from drugs that were probably only developed because of this attention.  I know I, and many women, have benefited (don’t think the men with breast cancer have gained much from all that Pink, but that is another story). But I think a backlash is coming. All the lights shining on breast cancer, from celebrities and corporations and everything, is starting to blind and irritate everyone else.

I think it is time to acknowledge that not only has Pink bullied every other cause, but that folks with other cancers are getting mighty tired of all the attention. I wrote this post last year, BEFORE that Pancreatic Cancer commercial in the UK put a spotlight on breast cancer in a different, quite unflattering way.

Yes, so many have benefited from Pink. At some point I suspect the winds will change, and we will ALL suffer from a backlash—those who embrace Pink and those who loathe it like your Cancer Curmudgeon. The kerfuffle around that pancreatic cancer PSA is probably just the beginning.

What Do You Mean There Are OTHER Kinds of Cancer Besides Breast Cancer?!

Posted on October 31, 2013 by Cancer Curmudgeon

Or: Shoving Pink Down Your Throat

Yes that title is sarcastic. Continue reading “Blinding Light”

Chicken and Beer

These two go together apparently, with a few restaurants, several recipes, and even a rap album all sharing the name.

So when will beer, and all alcohol, follow chicken in being banished from breast cancer celebrations, whoops, I mean fundraisers?*


Before I say more, let me announce my own hypocrisy. I am no teetotaler. I love my wine. But I am also NOT a non-profit, or a health/cancer advocate, or anyone even remotely qualified to give any advice, least of all medical advice. In fact, I would never suggest anyone make any of the choices I made during cancer either medically or mentally/emotionally, etc.—in fact opposite choices are likely the best bet for most folks. I definitely do not encourage others in drinking alcohol—I like making my own dumbass choices and everyone else can make theirs. I am just an anti-social Cancer Curmudgeon. I enjoy pointing out the Dumb Shit Done, in my stupid opinion, in the world of cancer, in service of Pink and otherwise. Continue reading “Chicken and Beer”

Not Again

Insomnia is a bitch. And a cause of cancer, and I ranted about that ages ago.

So a result of falling asleep too early in front of the tube and being wide awake at midnight is stumbling on an article about a new report pointing out that some large amount of cancers are preventable if everyone would just behave. By behave, I mean: eat right, don’t have fun (er, I mean, smoke or drink), exercise.

YES I GET IT! So do lots of people, even many cancer patients. And I realize many more do NOT get it. A friend reminds me when I rant about this in person, that she watches some folks wonder why they can’t lose weight as they chow down on junk food. So, yes, I concede that while many seem to get the message about the benefits of healthy living, most people (Americans) don’t seem to get it. I do not understand how this ignorance continues, but that is my own failing, my own impatience and intolerance.

Anyway, this piece I had the misfortune of finding wonders why the benefits of healthy lifestyle are used in campaigns about heart disease, and other illnesses, but not cancer. I guess that is just another one of the funny things (not ha ha funny) about living in Cancerland. I am hyper-aware of every magazine cover touting how exercise and certain foods (flavor of the week foods, ha ha) help prevent cancer. So I am just flabbergasted when anyone, especially medical reports, claim that there is this big hole in the conversation around healthy choices and cancer.

I cannot even go into the whole problem I have with this constant focus on one half of the environmental factors in the discussion of causes of cancer. The phrase “environmental factors” refers to everything—diet, exercise, as well as pollution, crap in products and so on, or so I read once, somewhere. As usual, the onus is put on individual choices. I wish Chapter 13 of “Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History” by Florence Williams could be required reading, for like, everyone, ever.

Look, for the millionth time, I’m not knocking healthy choices. Since completing treatment, I have certainly made lifestyle changes for the better, although I indulge in the occasional glass of wine or sweet treat, because I wish to enjoy my life. I just get so sick of how reductive the conversation has become about those environmental factors. And I am tired of the subtle blame the focus on individual behavior invites.

I keep thinking I have this issue out of my system, but no. I wrote this just a few months ago, but, well, here I go repeating myself. I pondered why I and others get a bit sensitive about this issue, about why we perceive this topic as a bit of an attack or blame.

Did You?

Posted on February 15, 2014 by Cancer Curmudgeon

Did you smoke, and for how long?

Did you drink, how much, how often?

Did you have kids?

Did you use a tanning bed?

Did you even try to lose weight?

Did you take hormones or the Pill?

Did you eat enough blueberries?

Did you eat tomatoes?

Did you eat meat?

Did you buy organic?

Did you eat a lot of sugar?

Because if you have cancer, you did it to yourself. Continue reading “Not Again”

Not Good Enough

So Cancerland, Town of Breast, is experiencing another sort-of controversy in the form of the announcement that all women can (should?) have BRCA testing, regardless of family history. This all because of the discovery that there are indeed women who have the mutation even with no family history of cancer, which is a bummer. Opinions are running around the internet. Mine is: So what? This news is just not good enough for me to get excited.

When I first started blogging, I wrote some wildly unpopular opinions about my disenchantment with BRCA testing. My strong family history moved me to get the test, back in the days when only Myriad conducted it, and I was negative. At the time I was relieved and used the results as a tipping point in my decision to go with a lumpectomy rather than a prophylactic double mastectomy. Much later I learned that BRCA is only present in a small percentage of breast cancer cases, and that my own chance of having the mutation was only slightly higher than average. Then by participating in a study, I learned the way my results were presented—a simple “you’re negative for both mutations”—probably was not all that accurate, there were other things I could’ve been tested for (had been tested for but no one went over it with me?) that would give me info. I’ve chosen to not dig deep into that, because, it makes no difference now. I’m not going to go back and have more surgery. Can’t afford it for one, and, well, me and surgery don’t get along—it makes me puke, literally, too much.

So as I stand here on the other side of the horrible whirlwind of treatment and all those terrible decisions, I’m left, as I said, disenchanted and unimpressed. Because at the end of the day, I still had cancer and getting tested could not alter that fact. It might come back, and this test cannot alter that either.

Sometimes it seems to me that the discussions and announcements about tests for likelihoods, screening tools (mammography debate), and the “weak” preventative measures (women with no mutation-inspired “high risk” getting double mastectomies for an early stage breast cancer, and it makes no difference in likelihood of survival), are like that joke about looking for your car keys under the streetlight. You did not lose your keys there, but the lighting is better than the dark area in which the keys DID get lost. The big news in Cancerland always seems to revolve around how to better find cancer faster and earlier, and how to figure out who is most likely to eventually get it. But there seems to never be any “big” announcements about how to prevent it from happening in the first place, keep cancer from coming back, or how to better improve the survival once it does happen, especially for those whose cancer has metastasized.

Oh sure, there is a prevention offered to those who do have the mutation—one portion of the poison, slash, and burn treatment—the slash portion (and I think some poison is offered too, I wouldn’t know, I’m negative). Yes, only putting up with one portion, the slashing, is far better than putting up with all three, certainly a bit less dangerous and difficult on the body. But, I still feel it isn’t good enough. Sorry, that is just the way I feel. I don’t think it is crazy to want a waaaay better option to prevent cancer than the current option, if one is so (un)lucky to know that cancer is a damn near certainty due to a mutation. All this info we can know about ourselves and the option is still shit.

I don’t mean to belittle or blow off the years of hard work many folks put into testing, studying, and drawing conclusions about women and breast cancer. They are trying make a difference, trying to make a dent in the so-called battle against cancer. And I don’t mean to belittle those folks who embrace these announcements, who are encouraged with what truly is an incredible piece of the puzzle. Perhaps I am being selfish or self-centered, as I am only looking at these 2014 announcements through the lens of my own experience—but, well, that is all I got: my own point of view.

The Risky Body wrote about this BRCA announcement a few days ago and made a comment that pierced me. She suggested maybe those of us NOT BRCA positive have resentment because those who do have this mutation have info that can be viewed as an advantage. I admit, I do have this resentment. I was angry during that whole Jolie kerfuffle. All those media types praising her for being brave and proactive pissed me off. When my aunt was diagnosed at the relatively young age of 50 (isn’t the average age for female breast cancer patients 61 or 62? Did I read that somewhere?), I was all “proactive” and got a mammogram that told me I had no evidence of cancer. Five weeks later, I find out I have a big ol’ 5 x 6.6 cm tumor. I did the BRCA testing, thinking surely, with an aunt, a grandmother, and a grandmother’s sister all having had breast cancer, surely, I’d be positive and could be proactive. Again, nothing. As I reflect back today my breast cancer seems both random and inevitable. And I feel I was powerless to stop it, and am still powerless in the face of a potential return. The more I scramble to “do something”, the less I seem able to do.

If this post sounds bitter, it is. This is why I have not been posting much this summer. Writing is not the refuge it once was, bitterness just pours out of my fingers when I sit down to my keyboard. So I’ve chosen to not be bitter, and have been having fun this summer instead. I indulged myself by working hard, bingeing on old TV shows with a friend (catching up with the rest of the human race in understanding why “Breaking Bad” is the best show ever), (re)reading a trilogy now that the final book came out. I’ll probably go back to that for a bit, but yes, I do have other Curmudgeonly posts in the works. I’ve sat on them, for fear of just being too, well, bitter-sounding.

But I just had to chime in on this topic. Some would say I should’ve sat on this post too. But, one thing blogging has taught me is that there are likely a few women out there whose situation (BRCA status, mammography failure, etc.) is similar to mine. And maybe a few of those feel the same as I do about all this mess. Our similar feelings won’t change anything but at least we are not alone.

So I, or maybe we, will sit here and wait. I’m tired of hearing about how more mammograms and more aggressive surgery do not help one bit. I’m tired of hearing about new or more tests which will tell anyone bad news (you, Jane Q. Potential Cancer Patient will surely get cancer). I’m sick of these announcements being presented as “good” news. I want to hear someone tell me they can lessen my chance cancer will come a “get me” again. I want to hear that no other woman will go through what I did, age 38, scared out of my mind and utterly bewildered I got breast cancer younger than anyone else in my family. In spite of all the awareness and knowledge, I knew nothing, and still know so little and still feel powerless.

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