Thursday, October 27, 2011

Awareness didn't stop me from getting Breast Cancer

As Breast Cancer Awareness month comes to a close, I breathe a sigh of relief...

I am a breast cancer survivor, the scary triple-negative kind of breast cancer.  But since the beginning of my cancer journey, I have always been put-off by the "Breast Cancer Awareness" campaigns.

When I first heard Susan Komen ads on the radio after my diagnosis, I couldn't help but notice that the entire content was about fear.  I didn't want fear, I wanted hope for my survival.  And when I looked into it, and saw how their funds are used, it became clear that they weren't "for the cure" they most definitely had an agenda - an agenda that was not aligned with my plan for survival.

But that aside, as a survivor, you would think I would want to encourage at least the message of "awareness" that is promoted each October.  Maybe that would save lives if women knew to do self-exams, and made it in for their regular screenings.

So.  Why does an Awareness campaign bother me so much?

Partly, this must be due to the fact that I have been aware of breast cancer since my teen years.  I'm not sure how I heard about it, but there's a general awareness that cancer exists, and the most common forms - there is even an awareness that there are rare forms of cancer.  I have always done breast self-exams fairly regularly.  If my doctor had recommended a mammogram, I would have done it - but I was at LOW RISK for breast cancer.  I was young and healthy...  I was not at the age for routine mammograms yet.

So, all of the awareness that I DID have, did nothing to prevent my breast cancer.  There is nothing in the pink ribbons scattered all over every sugary product at the grocery store that would have made me do anything differently, nor would it have made my lump less aggressive when they found it.

Awareness did not prevent my breast cancer.  It didn't even help me catch it early.  It didn't offer me better treatment options.

Awareness is just a foot in the door for promoting an agenda for profits.  Susan Komen is connected with drug companies - so their idea of a cure, is to encourage people to find cancers that need drugs - maybe detect them early, cancers that may not even need chemotherapy will be treated with chemotherapy - they even fund lawsuits to encourage treatment of late-stage cancers that don't respond well to treatment.  And their alignment with KFC - foods that may cause cancer - boggles the mind!!

Komen for the Cure?

And that's not all.  Recently, Susan Komen seems to think they have a trademark on the use of the word "Cure".  Like it's NOT okay for anyone else to care about curing cancer?  Really?  Do they really NOT care about the real cancer patients who want to survive, cancer patients aren't allowed to think any other organization is seeking a cure - they have to use some other word when they are seeking to survive their cancer??  Absurd.

The more you read, the more you look at who is profiting - the more offensive it is:  they take MY breast cancer, and use it to make other people feel sorry for me, so money is given to THEM!!!  That feels like abuse to me.  The "Awareness" campaign leaves me feeling manipulated and used.

Most people are aware that cancer exists.  A large percentage of the population will get cancer regardless of this awareness.  Maybe we should try something different.

Let's make a campaign about CANCER PREVENTION!!!  Not just breast cancer - ALL CANCER!!!

That would be a campaign that I would like to see.

That would be a campaign that would fill me with hope, not fear and/or disgust.

It could promote all sorts of healthy eating and lifestyle changes - beautiful green signs in the produce section of the store, instead of pink ribbons on sugary cereal boxes.

And above all else - it is a campaign that could have real results - less people dying of cancer.  That IS our goal isn't it?  I hope so.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Moving On from Cancer - Does It Ever Leave You?

A pattern I see over and over again in cancer survivor blogs, is the little details of their every day life.

We all have families, we have jobs, some of us have children, gardens, hobbies...  we talk about our lives, and what we are doing just before heading out for another scan or blood test.  We talk about how great and supportive our family has been... or sometimes we are dealing with break-ups.

But it seems that no matter what we do, there is this giant lump of a cancer diagnosis that we are dragging around with us every day.  We can go to work, and feel like we are living a normal life, but we are still cancer survivors - wondering if it will come back... our perspective on everything changed with the awareness of that possibility.

Can we ever let go of that?

After 5 years of survival, it is still such a large part of my identity.  I am no longer an artist, mother, teacher...  I'm a cancer survivor: Front and Center.

Why can't we go back?  When we've been healthy for a while, why can't we go back to our old selves?  

I read in a blog recently, that relationships stay with us long after they are over.  Someone had done an exercise where you took a piece of tape and stuck it on everyone else in the room, and with each person a little lint stayed on your tape - the people in your life, even when they are gone, still linger with you - you carry them with you everywhere.  Cancer feels like that, only instead of a little lint, it's a big lump, like a shriveled up raisin stuck to your piece of tape along with all the lovely lint from the people you've known.  Even when it is completely gone, you can't let go of it.

So, how do we heal from this?  Is there a way to take it beyond the cancer and become something more whole, something new?  Like moving on from a bad relationship shouldn't define you - you become more truly yourself - independent of the scars...  does healing from cancer ever reach that point of independence, when it no longer defines you - when it's only a whisper or a bit of lint...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Is Cancer Preventable?

I was diagnosed with cancer.  I have no family history, I have no health indications that would make anyone think I'd be prone to cancer, I rarely get sick...

So, I believe there is NO reason I should have had cancer.

But, I was lazy about my diet - I found it easier to each quick and cheap, than to prepare thoughtful healthy meals.

I had a lot of stress in my home life and at work...  that weakens the immune system.

I had very little time to exercise - and always felt guilty about it.

I lived in a house that had radon gas - yes, we mitigated (which basically means you try to air out the house), but I wasn't concerned about it.

All the things that my body needed to stay strong, I just let them go.  I made everything else a priority.

So.  Now that I've had cancer, I think: Is the cancer something that just happens, or is it really preventable?

Can I change my diet, and environment, and exercise - all things that improve survival - will that prevent it from coming back?  Was my lack of concern before a cause for cancer?

I don't know.  But my body feels like that is true.

How can the cancer possibly return, when I am giving it nothing??

I created a graph to illustrate my point at:

I will continue to build on this idea, because I truly believe it's possible.  I would love to hear other people's opinions.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Back to Fighting Cancer

After several months of not blogging, I am back.

It occurred to me that my absence might be worriesome - anyone following a cancer survivor's blog must question their survival if they disappear for a while - so I am back to remind you that:

I am still here!!

Surviving Cancer!!!

Alive and Well!!!

The reason I was gone was because I was moving, and otherwise busy with life...  but my life is now about keeping the conversation going.  Let's survive together.  Let's explore all the ways we can prevent the cancer from ever coming back.

I decided this morning, that I TRULY believe, that CANCER is completely PREVENTABLE.

Even if you have had cancer before....

Stay tuned: I will blog more about this tomorrow :)