Archive for October, 2011

Have you had your Yearly Mammogram?
October 25, 2011

 9 years ago I went to see my Doctor for a routine check-up and mammogram. I was healthy, busy and didn’t give it a second thought. I thought like every other year the Doctor would say I was in excellent health. She didn’t. She told me to see a surgeon. She said my mammogram was read and it appeared to be textbook breast cancer. In a minute my life changed. I was 48 years old.

Digital mammography is fantastically fast. Before you get dressed the radiologist reads your mammogram and either sends you on your way, asks for another view, or recommends you see your physician.

Mammograms have come a long way from the big squish times. Yes the squish is still there but it is such a short amount of time you hardly feel it. When you are asked to hold your breath the procedure is so fast that you aren’t even gulping for air!

If you take 400 mg of Ibuprofen before your mammogram it does help take the edge off the tiniest discomfort. As far as pain, I am here to say cancer not only sucks but it hurts. A slight ouch from a mammogram is nothing in comparison to painful chemotherapy infusions, body aches and numbing fatigue.

If you say there is no breast cancer in your family, and you are healthy, read my first paragraph again. There is no known cause for breast cancer and no cure. If you are over 40 and especially if you have dense breast or someone in your family had breast or ovarian cancer, get your mammogram.

Many women are reluctant to have a mammogram because they are afraid of the results. The other excuses women give for not having a yearly mammogram is lack of insurance or the cost or the time. As far as the cost goes, the Komen foundation; can assist for some uninsured low income women. As far as the fear factor, when breast cancer is diagnosed early the survival rate is 98%. The time excuse, really do you have time for cancer??If you are insured it is a no brainer. How busy can you be in the grand scheme of life?

Life can change in a minute from an injury, illness, accident or sudden death. We all take precautions when we buy car insurance, or home insurance. We are being safe when we use our seat belt, or use our turn signals while driving. Why would we not take the same safety measures with our health and get a yearly mammogram?

October is breast cancer awareness month!


Breast Cancer Gene Debate
October 18, 2011

The BRACA 1 and BRACA 2 genes for hereditary breast cancer are the only genes currently diagnosable. This means if you are tested for the genes and you have it your chances of getting breast cancer increase greatly as well as your chance of ovarian cancer in your lifetime compared to the general public. But and here is the debate and the big ‘but’, you have to go through genetic counseling and take the genetic test to find out if you even have the genes.

To some women this seems straight-forward.  They know they have a history of breast cancer on their Father’s side and/or their Mother’s side of the family so they see the geneticist specializing in breast cancer found at major urban hospitals.

Let me put up the common road blocks that makes this situation anything but straight-forward; Money, time, insurance, and knowledge. 

The test will be administered after counseling which takes time.

The counseling is after a doctor recommends this to you which is insurance.

The test is not 100% covered by insurance which is the money component.

The knowledge component is the big roadblock for many women. What do you do if you find out you are positive for the gene? Remember the positive outcome of the gene does not say you will get breast or ovarian cancer, but that your chances are higher than the general public.

My opinion is that this is a very important issue for women who are in their mid 20’s and 30’s and are thinking of having children. If a woman in this age group tests positive she can make changes. She can opt to harvest her eggs for a later date, have children as soon as possible or opt to have prophylactic surgeries. These are not changes in diet, exercise or life-style changes, but life altering changes!

Currently there are 250,000 women living in the USA who were diagnosed with breast cancer before age 41. Usually their cancer is a more aggressive form. The financial burden and emotional costs of cancer are difficult to measure at any stage of life but even more difficult to measure in a young woman. Extrapolate this to a young woman who is healthy but has a family history. Do you push her to have the counseling and to take the test?

Many women give the reason why they don’t get a yearly mammogram is because they are afraid of the results. Ignorance is bliss is a common reason of non-action for many. With that in mind how would you react to the genetic counseling and test? What would you suggest to your friends, sisters, or daughter if they fit the criteria for genetic cancer?














Pink Fatigue in October
October 11, 2011

October is breast cancer awareness month. Pink is the color associated with breast cancer. Many companies support breast cancer charities and research by changing the colors of their products to pink or put the pink ribbon trademarked by the Komen foundation on their products. So what is the big deal? The big deal is some people are sick of all the pink. Some people have ‘pink fatigue’, meaning the pink has lost impact on them. Some people think the color pink is too cute or too soft or too feminine to be representative of the breast cancer disease.

I don’t know why Komen picked pink to represent their logo, the ribbon, but they did. Their success with breast cancer awareness has snowballed all breast cancer charities and research to use pink in their marketing.

Some people are out raged that, the largest charity in the world pays high salaries to their top employees. Some people are outraged that a company will put a cap on their matched donations of $500,000.00, $50.000.00 or $5,000.00 to breast cancer. Some people are outraged that Fast Food outlets will sell nutritiously bad food while donating a nickel per bucket to breast cancer.

Let me address some of these thoughts:

The treatments for breast cancer are; slash, burn and poison. There is nothing cute, soft or feminine about that!

Komen did not get to be the biggest charity by only using volunteers. Just because they are a nonprofit does not mean that their employees don’t get paid. Komen takes the millions of dollars they raise from around the world and fund research on drugs, treatment programs, mammograms and outreach programs. Almost all the drugs used in breast cancer treatment have been a result of Komen dollars.

A company willing to make any donation to Komen or breast cancer research is voluntary and they will get my dollars. Why not?

If you eat fast food in a bucket, and many do, why not have a nickel go to breast cancer research? You are not making the breast cancer patient or survivor eat it!

Here is the low down on breast cancer. There is no cure. There is no cause. The treatments can be barbaric and debilitating.  95% have no family history of breast cancer. The leading causes of breast cancer are being a woman and too many birthdays. 1 out 8 women will get breast cancer in their lifetime. Look around and count starting with me, a 9 year survivor, and count 8 more women in your life.

The next time you consider scoffing at the pink in October, ask yourself if your nickel or dime won’t help your sister, friend, daughter or self in the future?

A Brave New Woman
October 4, 2011

I am not a big fat baby when it comes to new adventures, but lately in comparison to my friends I am certainly in the running. Here is a list of what some of my friends are up to:

  • Took a leave of absence and traveled alone for 2 months to South America with-out being fluent in Spanish!
  • Quit her job and started a 3 year graduate school program at over 50 years old!
  • Took a sabbatical to Europe, bought a car and drove through France and Italy by herself!
  • Sold her home and moved to Mexico with-out being fluent in Spanish!
  • Started her own business in a new service industry she developed!
  • Joined a Dragon Boat Team and traveled to participate in races around the world after breast cancer treatments!

Yikes, right! Did I mention that these friends of mine are every day normal women?  No trust fund babies, Housewives of wherever, extreme thrill or sports junkies in the bunch. Women who through emails or over coffee mentioned to me casually in the same manner as they would say, “I am going to the mall instead of downtown to shop for some black pumps”, except they are doing these huge brave things!

Now we all have done some brave things or events from time to time, but these women are demonstrating a commitment to a new challenge that goes beyond doing a  zip line, walking over a bed of fire, taking up conversational Cantonese, starting a new job, ending a bad marriage or horseback riding! These women are demonstrating a new experience that only 1 out of not very many are willing to take.

 I think what makes my friends remarkable is their desire and willingness to go or do their  adventures by themselves.  How often have we heard someone say “If I had someone to do this  with or if I had the time I would do it”? These women were not held back waiting for that  someone or the perfect time. They left spouses, partners, children, pets, homes, careers and many exclamations of “Are you Crazy” to pursue their goal. Some said it was a lifetime goal, others a whim to seize the opportunity.

So here are my questions: Is there a brave new woman in all of us?

Have you become a brave new woman in the last few years?

Are you like me, almost a big fat baby?