Did You?

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.

Several days ago, Dr. Otis Brawley of the American Cancer Society wrote on some news site that most cancers are preventable and made bullet points of the usual laundry list of prevention measures. He did not say that everyone, or me personally, Curmudgeon Q. Cancer Patient, had brought cancer upon themselves/myself. But I still feel a zing when I read or hear this sort of thing. I am still trying to figure out why I get that zing.

Now, I know should avoid comments sections on mainstream news media sites. They cause me much stress—another cause of cancer, naturally. So why read them? Well, it does give a glimpse into how and what people think. Of course one person whose husband died from cancer protested the idea her husband brought it on himself, and another responded along the lines of: all these damn cancer patients are too sensitive, this article isn’t blaming them.

Ah there is the rub. Why are we sensitive? Well, because we get asked those questions I just listed at the start of this post, and more. A lot. Or at least I did. And yes, I brought some of the paranoia on myself, every time I looked at a magazine cover while waiting in line at the grocery store, each one touting some food I hate (fruits, including those cursed tomatoes) as a sure fire way to prevent cancer—and it usually says “prevent”, not “lower your risk”, at least on the cover, the story changes a bit on the pages inside.

Yes, I know, breast cancer patients are not blamed for their situation as much as lung cancer patients or people with heart disease. I just read another article about the latest mammography mess in which the journalist pondered how women think of heart disease as a result of bad behavior, while breast cancer is considered something bad that happens to women. I really have a hard time with this particular misperception that I see in articles more frequently than I’d like. Because from where I’m standing, when I got asked those questions, there was a flicker of a suggestion that this cancer did not just “happen”, but rather, I’d engaged in actions or non-actions that resulted in my getting cancer. I think that could be called blame.

I constantly see pieces linking smoking, and especially alcohol, to breast cancer. Yes I see it more than average folks because, you know, I had breast cancer, so I hone in on these items. But I am sure a few others are seeing it, and it is getting lodged at least in the subconscious. Well, OK, maybe not, given that most local breast cancer fundraisers in my small town are sponsored by bars and other businesses selling alcohol, and yes, alcohol is generally served, never mind all the chatter about alcohol causing breast cancer. Ugh, that is a post for another day.

It’s just that, for anyone to think most people, even on subconscious, unspoken levels, are not blaming the cancer patients, any cancer patients, for getting themselves into their fixes, it’s just…naïve. We must be blamed, we must endure those insulting “did you do this, did you not do that” questions. Some folks MUST blame us, because it is the only way they can assure themselves they’ll be safe from cancer. Anything they do that is different—eating, drinking, having kids—well, that is the get out of cancer free card, isn’t it? If only that were true.

What will it take to end the blame the patient game? Maybe cancer patients are too sensitive, but there is a reason. Too bad sensitivity isn’t transferable to others in need of it.

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Cake

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“Yeah, but bacon tastes good. Pork chops taste good”

 –“Pulp Fiction”, 1994

While I was ranting in the previous post about how the media treated the recent death of Gandolfini, I began ranting about how TV doctors, commercials, and other media go on and on about healthy diets, and soon I was going on and on and on about food and weight loss and the judge-y judgertons on TV, and had wandered away from just fussing about Gandolfini and how his death got treated. I realized just how much media messages about diet and weight bother me.

I call this post “Cake”, but I don’t just mean cake; I’m using that one four lettered food item to stand for:

Ice cream

Chocolate

Cookies

Fried chicken, oh heck, all fried foods, fried stuff with cheese, to quote Joey Tribbiani

Rare steak

Fudge

Bacon

Cookies

Cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger

Pie

Mayonnaise

Brownies

Mac-n-cheese

Potatoes

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Candy

Fruit juice (not the real, 100% juice kind)

Coca-cola (I mean all soft drinks, where I’m from Coke means any syrupy, carbonated beverage)

Wine

Vodka

Biscuits

Pasta

Waffles

Food smothered in any kind of creamy sauce, mmm, like Alfredo

Sweet tea

Pizza

Spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, lovely spam, wonderful spam

In other words, every food or drink that is awesome but is aiming to kill me. For the record, I don’t like soft drinks or soda pop (whatever your region calls it), or pie, or spam (my favorite song), but I’m listing foods that I know many others enjoy.

Now, I love when y’all comment on my posts, but I gotta ask this time that no one leave me a lecture about healthy diet and exercise, or moderation. I don’t eat a box of pasta and a jar of sauce every night for supper. I get the concept of moderation. This post, in combination with the preceding one, should explain that I GET IT, I just feel like I’m being lectured all the time with the constant messages about losing weight. Liberal media, Right wing media, shoooooot, Diet media is more like it. Sometimes I think that whole Cancer Thing I had there was just a plot constructed by The Smoking Man to get me to eat a damn salad. (Kidding, I ate salad in my BC—before cancer—era, I just do it more now). Who is The Smoking Man? OMG, stop reading and go stream all episodes of “The X-Files”, like right now, before I sic the unmarked helicopters on you. My love for that show probably explains too much of my blog.

Anyway.

You guessed it; this is just a humor post, me blowing off steam by going to the ridiculous extreme. I’m just complaining, and kicking against this constant need to behave sensibly that cancer seems to have imposed on me. No, this post was written by the six year old me, and she is cranky. And she wants a donut.

But in all seriousness, the issue of weight in all health-related pieces I see or read is really making my blood boil lately, and Gandolfini was the last straw. Wanna hear something stupid? BC, I was not overweight at all. I was in the correct weight span for my height. Was my BMI perfect? Doubtful. Was I a pleasing shape? No, I looked like—and still look like—a marshmallow with toothpicks for arms and legs, because all my weight gain goes to the middle, turning me into a box shape (oh yeah, forgot marshmallows in above list—but I don’t like them either). Was I fit or in shape? I’m not sure; I mean I had two physical jobs that required me to be active and do lots of heavy lifting. So, no I wasn’t in the gym, mostly because I was busy, working my ass off to get the money to pay the bills. I had no immediate health risk factors for anything really, other than my family (genetically and you know, stressing me out, driving me crazy).

Now, post-treatment, yeah, I’ve put on some extra pounds, and that has everything to do with chemo. During those first awful weeks of chemo, I hated all food and doubted I’d ever want to eat again (and yeah, lost ten pounds very quickly, my pants kept falling down, plumber butt!). Two years after chemo ended, and the smell of most foods do not make me nauseous anymore, it’s like I still cannot quite believe my good fortune at getting my appetite back. I’m like a kid in a candy store, or cake store, or steak store, or fried chicken store, or caramel popcorn store, or…you get the idea. So, I wasn’t overweight before cancer, I gain it after cancer because I missed the taste of food so much, and now all I hear is: fat causes cancer. I just want to scream! I can’t win for losing. So if I get cancer again, can I sue chemo treatments for making me appreciate food anew, and therefore causing me to overeat and get fat causing me to get more cancer? Yes I’m being facetious and sarcastic, to make a point.

I’ve been rolling my eyes lately at the commercials in which a woman is confronted with a donut or cake or a person dressed up as a cupcake or some such nonsense, and she chooses the healthy fruit-filled cracker-like snack. It’s just so stupid. That supposedly healthy choice is not at all healthy (preservatives, empty calories, and all kinds of other crap) and it is just so unrealistic. I would take that cracker and throw it, and then devour the cake. The ad doesn’t make me buy their product; it does make me cook fatty foods. I once watched a film about food that started off promising, talking about why humans crave the carbs and sugars and what not, but then it turns into what seems like an ad for juicing (I did not check, but I can take a guess at what or who funded this documentary). Not once in any of these types of commercials/films/shows does anyone acknowledge a basic truth:

CAKE TASTES GOOD AND THAT IS WHY I WANT IT. All the fancy juices and jam filled crackers in the world will not change that fact, why will no one admit this?

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I do not have great will power, but when I do manage to exert even just a little will power, it comes from admitting to myself that hey—I want that cake (or any tasty food) because I LIKE IT. I don’t stupidly pretend that better-for-me foods will give me even half the joy or satisfaction the cake could give me.  Otherwise being healthy would be easy, and I would not need films, commercials, and talking head TV doctors lecturing me. Of course, this line of discussion gets too close to that Kate Moss quote (“nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”).

Of course, that opens a whole other can of worms doesn’t it? A friend with numerous chronic illnesses (none of them being cancer) must avoid fats and sugars to avoid going from feeling bad to worse. It is like a simple mathematical equation for her: Insert cake into mouth = feel terrible all night. Lucky for her, she is one of those people who just don’t care much about food, and cutting out certain foods doesn’t faze her, she never misses any of them. Well, that ain’t the case for me and the equation is not so simple in cancer. Being fat is a risk factor but not an absolute. Cutting out all the things I love (wine, chocolate) does not give me a 100% guarantee, and I want that guarantee. And again, don’t send me a lecture, because I’ve heard the argument: being fat is a risk for the post cancer woman because then she’ll just die of a heart attack, if not cancer. Gee, thanks. Health nuts get their panties in a twist about this one all the time, I know it, I understand it. Now, can I have a piece of cheesecake to enjoy?

Sigh, guess I just have to file this problem under the “life’s not fair” section, and muddle on.

But maybe my real point, in all this fussing, whining, and moaning I’m doing here today is this: I have a sneaking suspicion that cancer has made me afraid of enjoying some of the simple things in life I used to like. I wanna go outside; nope, pesticides. I wanna go to the beach; nope, sun = skin cancer. I wanna dye my hair magenta again; nope carcinogens in beauty products. I wanna eat something good; nope, I’ll get fat. It’s like I live in a world full of “nope” now. No, I’m not being so drastic or extreme as to suggest that for all the limits on my life now maybe I should’ve just given up when I got cancer. Not at all. Just sayin’ real simple-like, I know a life-long health-nut guy who stopped eating sugar and his Lymphoma keeps coming back. Remember—no guarantees. All I’m saying is, I could take those twigs on TV a little better if they’d just admit they want the cake, rather than putting their noses in the air, piously waving the sweet treat away and then downing a glass of something that looks like liquefied crap that came out of the lawn mower.

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A friend sent me a quote once about not just wanting to survive, but wanting to live. If I can get 10 to 20 more years, well, by golly, they will be ice cream-filled years. Now that is L-I-V-I-N’.