I’m a little late to the party but still want to participate in Nancy’s Point’s Summer Blogging Challenge!
OK, here we go, answers to Nancy’s questions:
- Share anything you want about your cancer diagnosis (or your loved one’s). Share your age, cancer type, stage, when you were diagnosed, family history (if any), your reaction, how you learned the news, or whatever you’re comfortable sharing.
I went for my first ever mammogram in August of 2010. My maternal aunt had just been diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. Her mother (my maternal grandmother) and aunt had had breast cancer as well. My grandmother was diagnosed with it as she was dying of heart disease, so was never treated for her cancer. Given that both my aunt and mother are on medications for blood pressure and heart issues, I always thought that was my bigger risk.
At any rate, that first mammogram received an “all clear” letter. A few weeks later I noticed my left nipple inverting. After a day of going to my new gynecologist (since the one who’d ordered the mammogram had suddenly left her position), and subjecting myself to numerous tests, well….turns out I wasn’t really “all clear”. On October 25, 2010 I learned via phone call I had breast cancer. An MRI ultimately proved it was about 5x6cm, biopsy proved it to be estrogen and progestogen negative, and HER2 positive.
I turned 39 years old on October 29, 2010. Starting in November had chemo, then surgery, then radiation (along with Herceptin infusions, simultaneously). I finished treatment in January 2010. I quit my 60+ hour a week main job to focus on my side hustle, and control my work load. I was exhausted
2.What is the most outrageous thing someone has said to you about your (or your loved one’s) cancer?
Someone told me just to “cut them off”. Ultimately I didn’t do that, I opted for lumpectomy. I’d often thought that about breast cancer patients before my own diagnosis. I found it harder to do when faced with the reality of it.
3.What is your biggest cancer pet peeve? I know it’s hard to choose, as there are many to pick from, right? But what irks you the most?
The sheer unwillingness of most people to understand and/or accept how complex cancer is. It’s not even the fact that people DON’T understand there are several types of breast cancer, not to mention the thousands of other kinds of cancers—it’s the fact they seem to glaze over or look at me like I’m lying when I try to explain E/P negative & HER2 positive. I remember being SHOCKED being in a room of about a dozen other women who had breast cancer, and when I introduced myself and stated my stage and kind of cancer, they had no idea what I was talking about! The nurse leading the seminar had to explain the different kinds of breast cancer. After that I pretty much gave up on local support groups—too uneducated and UNWILLING to learn.
4.What is something you want others to know specifically about breast cancer?
See above. And also, that it is a slog. A marathon not a sprint. It takes a year or so for treatment and then more time to recover from treatment. It ain’t the damn flu.
5.If applicable, do you worry about recurrence rarely, from time to time or a lot? What is your biggest worry today, right now, this minute?
Always. I especially worry when I feel run down or “off”, like I have been lately. It gets hard to remind myself I’m probably just exhausted because of other stuff in life.
6.Do you feel cancer has made you a better person? Yes, I know this a loaded question. If you do, specifically in what way?
NOOOOOOO! It DID, however, release my inner Curmudgeon. Which is fine.
7.What is your favorite cancer book? (No, I’m not fishing for mentions of mine!)
The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, by Siddhartha Mukherjee. Haven’t read many others. I listen to books more than reading these days. #dogwalkerlife
8.Besides your family, where do you turn for emotional support?
Online support more than anything. After all this time blogging, I’ve found my “tribe” of like-minded cancer patients, former and otherwise. A relief.
9.How many cancer blogs do you read and why do you read them?
I don’t know—less than I would like, and less frequently these days. Because I’ve turned to political activism lately, I lack the spoons I’ve had to be as involved in online cancer communities. I hope to return soon.
10.Do you call yourself an advocate? If so, what drives you?
I have a fraught relationship with the idea of calling myself an advocate. I see the work of folks at METUP and how many political and other ties people like that have, and I’m just like, yeah, I can’t do that. I write my blog, I fuss and throw a fit, I muddle along. I accepted the mantle finally last year when I helped bring the #breastcancerrealitycheck tweet storm to fruition. Yes, we’ll do it again this year—working on it now. Also, participating in my local Indivisible showed me how much I learned as a cancer “advocate”, so I realized that yeah, I am an advocate. Ha ha, those cancer lessons—always the crazy stuff with me. Never touchy-feely crap like “life is short, love everyone”. For me always scratchy-bleedy. Just the way I like it.
What drives me? Oh, nothing short of a complete overhaul of the way society thinks about cancer. That’s all, nothing much. HA!
OK, that is some stuff about me in a nutshell. Hope to back soon with more blogs describing the musings of this cranky-pants cancer patient.