Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Painful Side of Breast Cancer Awareness

Breast cancer awareness can be a pervasive sales tactic.  The month of October everyone from Kellogg's to Komen to the NFL pinkwash themselves under the guise of breast cancer awareness. Cereal is pink. Ribbons are everywhere. I can't even sit down to watch a brutal competitive game of  football without having pink gloves, pink towels, and pink stories about survivors and hope floating across the tv. DO your research, just because a product is pink does not mean buying it will do any good for breast cancer research, treatment or survivors.  Awareness increases awareness. Awareness can help early detection. Awareness does not cure. As the government shuts down- so do many vital research projects, treatments, and clinical trials. The shutdown could mean life or death for certain people.

I am all for awareness. This month- many women might get more knowledge on how to examine their breasts through Monthly Self Breast Exam(BSE).  I know enough breast cancer survivors to complete a couple of teams to play a game on an NFL field. We wouldn't wear pink. Husbands might gain a little knowledge and be more supportive through this campaign. Heck everyone needs a back up quarterback- partners make great breast buddies.  One of my good friends made a video on how to do BSE- if you have any questions- please check it out. No nudity- just good information. Breast Self Exam with Trishia the Great

I found my lump almost 2 years ago. It was a thickening. Not round like a pea or grape. It was oblong and I could feel it when I laid on my side. It became an obsession- every night I would roll and see if it was still there. It was. One night Phil rolled over and felt where I was feeling- silently- mostly probably wondering in his ever selfless way if he could be of any assistance in the breast care and comfort department. He loves that part of his job. The silence became a sigh. The heaviness descended. I could no longer worry in my quiet place- it suddenly became a very real problem. My physician could not feel it. I got referred to an oncologist. The oncologist could not feel it. This is why breast self exam is important.  It was not a small lump. No one will notice changes in your body like you. Not just breasts- lumps, bumps, coughs- aches. They individually were less than 3 centimeters- but they were close together- making the oblong shape. MRI revealed a third tumor at a another part of the same breast. They came on fast and they were angry. Most of that is due to my mutant status. It was terrifying. The first October after my mastectomy sucked. I hated the awareness. I was aware. Painfully, lopsidedly aware. Grateful to be alive- angry at the money and resources going into awareness that could be helping find a cure or at least a treatment that would keep it in check. Angry that so many women face this and the treatments still often times fall short.

It is ironic to me that on eve of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I get the call to confirm that my breast cancer is back. It is in my lungs and possibly bones. There are no surgical options. We have to wait for pathology to see what the hormones are and what the markers of the tumor are to see if there are any treatments. By treatment, in the world of metastatic disease- we mean meds that will help me live with cancer, to keep it at bay for as long as possible. And in my weird mutant world- this is good news. This is the better of the options- because there are options. If it was sarcoma- there would be few options. My mutant girlfriends rallied and only in our select club would you ever have a band of women so heartily praying and wishing for breast cancer. Because like me- they know the alternative is worse.

I am painfully aware of breast cancer as are the other survivors. I am aware of the pain in what used to be my breast and every stinkin day wonder if the cancer is back or if it's a surgical remnant. This month I am no longer wondering. I am facing the fear of the unknowns. Will treatment hold it off, can I keep myself healthy, can I get everything done?  How will I tell the kids? How do I tell family and friends? I am facing basic questions from friends and acquaintances which help me realize that the awareness campaigns too have fallen way short. I am not your average breast cancer fighter- but I am no different. Every damn one of us wants more than anything to live. We want to beat the odds- the select few who win. We will do what it takes to achieve that goal- that touchdown. It is a game. The rules change, the players change- the coaches change. The only constant is what you believe. The rest can change. Let it. One of those changes could be that game winner. I believe awareness will not cure cancer. But I do believe there is someone out there right now who is affected by this nonsense and maybe just take that little bit of awareness might turn the tides of this game. And if that is truly the case, then awareness may in fact be priceless.

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Lily Kay Monkey

Lily Kay Monkey
November 2008 Photographed by Shelley Detton (7 Layer Studio)