Part 2—In Which I Do Not Cool Down Later

I suppose normal people get mad about something, and then cool down about an issue as more time passes. Not so for the curmudgeon. I wrote the previous post in a fit of white hot anger. I went off. I blew a gasket. And a million other clichés anyone can think of. One would think that after 12 hours have passed, my hot head would’ve cooled down. Nope. If anything, my head is hotter.

I wrote from my narrow minded own point of view. That “Time” post contained some—for lack of a better word, triggers—for me. I get so tired every Mother’s Day, the women who’ve chosen to not have children write blog posts or news articles defending their decision. Well, I like reading these pieces, it makes me feel like less of a freak for my own stance. I just hate the way these things pop up every May in an almost defensive “I chose not to have children and that’s ok, I’m not just some sad, unfulfilled woman crying this whole day” way that irks me. I used to think not having kids was a normal, logical choice for myself. With each passing year, I feel more and more as if I’m viewed as some kind of radical, sticking my middle finger up at society by not procreating. Well, yeah, I often am sticking up my middle finger, but in lots of ways for lots of reasons, not child related!

The other trigger is the focus on estrogen positive cancers, ignoring HER2 positives. I actually understand that a bit; only 20% are HER2 positive, so naturally most conversations or information about breast cancer will be about the majority, as maybe it should be. Come to think of it, I marvel at the invention of Herceptin. I cannot believe Big Pharma went out to make a drug for such a small part of a lucrative market (gonna have to read up on the history of that drug). But hey, that drug is the third top seller of all cancer drugs (see here), so I guess I shouldn’t feel bad for the poor ol’ drug companies (YES, being VERY sarcastic). I imagine the sophisticated marketing plan discussion for the drug boiled down to “hey we are only going to be able to get a portion of these desperate women (read breast cancer patients), I know, let’s charge the shit out the women who want this drug!”

But this morning I put myself in the shoes of women who had kids and got hit by cancer…especially estrogen positive cancer. Or wanted kids, and have been denied the chance to have them because of cancer. Or are indeed estrogen positive and chose not to have kids. How do these women feel? If any of these women interpreted the “Time” post the way I did, (that having a baby and breastfeeding it for a year is a way to prevent breast cancer, and if you got breast cancer because you didn’t do this you deserve it, and you’ve put a burden on public health), what must these women feel? If you are such a woman, reading this, I welcome comments (to me, to others, have a conversation here if you want, let loose, I LOVE that). I hesitate to speak for any such woman. I’ve done so before (here), in putting myself in the shoes of those who get so-called unnecessary mastectomies, because I can understand it, although I got the “approved” lumpectomy instead. (Still cannot believe I did that, I fall into so many small percentages regarding cancer, I don’t think the “low probability of breast cancer returning in same or other breast” as doctors like to yammer on about can actually apply to me. I had less than half a percent of a chance of getting cancer before 40 and I did, so you over there with your low stats bullshit, bite me.)

So thoughts on this topic—let ‘em rip, because I want to know. And thanks Cancer In My Thirties, for making me view it another way!

In the meantime, my challenge to the two doctors (Dr. Kathleen Marinelli, MD and Dr. Melissa C. Bartick, MD) quoted in the “Time” post regarding how breast cancer can be prevented by breast feeding: Good job on finding a prevention that many of us are so desperate for. Now, figure out a way to take that knowledge and turn it into another preventative method. Not every woman is cut out to be a mother, and they should not feel like not fulfilling their biological imperative will kill them.

Could Someone Explain It To Me?

Yet another Time magazine blog post claiming that breast feeding could save thousands from breast cancer.

How? Explain it to me, because I am a science idiot so I don’t get it. To the best of my understanding, the production of milk for babies has something to do with estrogen, which has something to do with, or not, in estrogen receptive cancer. Am I totally misunderstanding this?

I see this claim about having kids/breast feeding and the correlation to breast cancer every few months. This one was especially annoying in that it contained this: “What’s important is that it tells us that the cost of not providing support to women to optimally breast-feed their babies is astronomical because of the known health benefits to women. This points out that breast-feeding is not a lifestyle choice; it’s a public health imperative.” (So says Dr. Kathleen Marinelli.)

So I am not doing my part for public health by choosing to ignore my biological imperative (I never wanted kids), and not breast feeding. So my cancer is my fault and I’ve placed undue burden on public health. Yes, I get that she was probably saying those words to make employers understand that leave time (or whatever) needs to be provided for nursing mothers. I have no objection to that. And I probably should not complain, I’m in the minority (again). I’m just so tired of seeing this kind of headline, with an article that contains NO explanation of how breast cancer is linked to breast feeding. (I had to resort to Google, keep reading.)

I was estrogen and progesterone negative, HER2 positive. How does that have to do with not breast feeding? When I Googled “how does breast feeding prevent breast cancer” the first (non-ad-related) article that comes up is Dr. Weil saying “breastfeeding does appear to protect against breast cancer, probably by affecting levels of estrogen in a woman’s body”. My cancer had nothing to do with estrogen. Hell, I’m still on birth control pills!  

The paranoid side of me wants to see a conspiracy in this constant stream of encouragement to reproduce and do as nature intended (breed & breast feed). Not everyone wants kids. And it’s not like there is a shortage or something.

Does it bother no one that I would be the reincarnation of Joan Crawford? That I am the definition of an unfit mother? I made a rational, informed, modern choice to not have children, and it was the correct one. And breast cancer is NOT my punishment for this correct choice.

I know, I know. This article was not directed at me personally. But they seem to be so frequent, when I am least expecting them. It is not as if I am seeking them out. I follow/subscribe to blogs about health, and breast cancer specifically. I do this looking for any shred of hope of protecting myself from going through cancer again. And this is what I get for that.

Please. Stop. Blaming. Patients. For. Getting. Breast. Cancer.