…cancer. Made you look. Made you look. You can consider that my trick for the day. Your treats can come when you raid your kids candy stash tonight after they go to bed. Seriously, I know everyone is caught up in the celebration of Halloween activities, but I don’t want to ignore the fact that today is the last day of October. Breast cancer awareness month. I can’t let it slip by without comment. Especially not this year.
You see, earlier this year my mom was diagnosed with this horrible disease. Several women in my family have battled breast cancer, so we knew there was a chance it would happen. Still, this kind of news always has the ability to shock. She’s went through surgery and radiation treatments, and appears to be cancer free as of this moment. We’re grateful.
There are many side effects to watching people you care about go through something like this. One of them is a sensitive radar for anything to do with this topic. And I don’t know about you, but to me it’s starting to feel like we are being blinded by the glare from all the pink out there. I read a shocking statistic the other day. It stated that only eight percent of profits from the NFL pink merchandise actually goes back into cancer research. Eight percent. Somehow this subject matter has become trendy, and someone is making a lot of money off of it. I love football. But, make no mistake, this is despicable.
And that’s not the only thing I’ve seen recently that’s made me angry. I also read an article talking about the “Angelina Jolie Effect.” It stated that “famous personalities may be impacting important medical decisions.” Seriously? Are we that obsessed with celebrity in our culture that we’re going to let their choices dictate our own when it comes to a matter as serious as cancer? It’s bad enough that we have girls trying to look like those ridiculous models strutting up and down catwalks. You want a good Halloween costume? Look no farther than Fashion Week. Some of the stuff those people wear is terrifying. Now we’re going to let them impact our medical choices as well? It’s stunning and mind boggling. Look, no offence to Angie. I’ve had the conversation with my mom that included phrases like “genetic testing” and “increased chances.” And I’m a big fan of prevention and awareness. It may save my own life one day. Literally. But I just can’t help but think that in the midst of all of the trendy pink products and celebrity influence we may have lost sight of actual cancer patients. So I want to share with you something a friend of mine, Rebecca Christy, wrote. It’s one of the best pieces I’ve read on breast cancer all year. Here ya go…
I don’t like Angelina Jolie.
Yeah, you heard me. Ok, ok… Maybe that’s too strong. I’ve never met her. But, for a multitude of reasons, I’m pretty sure that if I did meet her, I wouldn’t like her. To be completely honest, some of my opinions on Ms. Jolie are purely driven by utter snarkiness. I mean, come ON… she’s beautiful, skiiiiiiiiny, manages all those kids, involved in charity, etc. Blech. Just blech. I realize that she probably never eats and works out obsessively, and she has nannies, and assistants and all that to make it look easy. But still.
No, the reason that I extra-don’t-like her right now is a REAL reason. And maybe it’s still not her fault, but, whatever. It is what it is. For those of you living under a rock, (seriously, you couldn’t have missed this if you TRIED. I know because I tried.), Angelina recently had a double mastectomy and is considering a hysterectomy because she tested positive for a mutation of the BRAC1 that indicates a much higher likelihood of contracting breast and ovarian cancer. In a statement released to The New York Times, she said, “My doctors estimated that I had an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer, although the risk is different in the case of each woman,” Jolie wrote. “Once I knew that this was my reality, I decided to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much I could. I made a decision to have a preventive double mastectomy.” That’s a huge decision to make, I get that. It’s major surgery. Plus, she had reconstruction. So, two major surgeries in less than three months, according to The New York Times article. However, there are just as many doctors who are cautioning against this very thing. This type of proactive preventive surgery is apparently on the rise and it’s not always a good thing. Many medical professionals are cautioning against hasty decisions and, what they call, hyper-awareness. It seems that American women, especially, have begun to just assume that they will have breast cancer. 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed. But, of those, the survival rate is 92% if caught early and 88% if caught at stage 1. And even for the women who test positive for BRAC1, BRAC2 and the various mutations, there are other options such as close monitoring and oral medication that can be taken that will reduce the chances of cancer by up to 50%.
Now, I realize that a lot of you may be thinking that I’m a mean, heartless bully. You’re probably right. But, not about this, you’re not. Let me explain, myself… Maybe I am being too harsh, but for whatever reason, hearing Angelina Jolie hailed as a “hero” and a “warrior” and the “brave new face of the battle against cancer” really, REALLY rubs me the wrong way. Am I wrong here? She’s NOT battling cancer. Yes, she made what I’m sure was a gut-wrenching decision, but she does NOT have cancer! Did I mention that she doesn’t have cancer?
I know people who are heroes and survivors. People who have fought the battle of their lives, FOR their life. These ladies have undergone surgery when they didn’t have an assurance that it would help anything. Then they’ve undergone treatments that made them so violently ill that they have wished to be dead. They’ve had to quit their jobs and have talks with their children and families to prepare them for the worst. To top it off, these bodies that they’re trying so hard to save are wrecked from the efforts to save them. I’ve never met a woman who doesn’t have a love/hate relationship with their hair. We can have on the best outfit, and the perfect makeup, but if we’re having a bad hair day it doesn’t matter. But what if the hair we had started falling out? I know that I’ve made jokes about just shaving my head rather than fight my hair. But what about the in between stages where it’s just really patchy and thin? And you may be feeling a little better from your last chemo treatment, i.e. you’re not puking your guts up, but you still can’t go out to dinner with your friends to take your mind off everything because your hair is literally falling out. By the handful. Then there are the mouth sores and constipation and a complete and total lack of energy to do anything, and on and on…
My grandmother is currently undergoing chemotherapy treatment for the second time for breast cancer. She had it the first time thirteen years ago and was in remission for years after a mastectomy and chemo. But, at her regular checkups recently, her doctor found something suspicious that he ”didn’t like”. Well, we don’t like it a whole lot, either. I cannot imagine having to hear that for the second time. It’s horrible the first time because it’s a fear of the unknown. But, the second time there are still some unknowns because there’s never a guarantee that you’ll survive, and then there are the “knowns”. As in, you know how sick you’re going to get. You know how weak you’re going to be. You just know… and that has to be worse. So now she’s had another mastectomy and just started her chemotherapy a week ago. Just healing from the surgery was hard enough and now the nausea and fatigue are setting in, to be followed soon by hair loss and a whole host of other yuckinesses. In February she had a radical mastectomy to remove her remaining breast. A few days after the surgery, when she was still very weak, her doctors discovered that she had internal bleeding. She had to have surgery again, less than a week after the initial one. My mother and her sisters all took turns sleeping in the hospital with her because we, as a family, don’t believe in leaving each other alone. (Interpret that how you will…) My aunt said that one night she woke up and heard my grandmother mumbling and thought that she was talking in her sleep. But after a moment she realized that what she heard was praying. And my grandmother wasn’t just praying for healing, or good health, or for the doctors wisdom. No, she was praying for each of us. By name. Yeah, I cried.
So, please forgive me if you know someone who had an elective mastectomy, or if you yourself are considering one. I’m not saying that it’s a bad decision and sometimes, with careful consideration, it may a good decision! Don’t hate me, but I just can’t stomach a woman who can afford every convenience and comfort in the world and who doesn’t have cancer, being hailed as the “face of the war on cancer”. No, I’ve seen that face and it belongs to Nancy Carolyn Hughes Sykes. My Mema.
And, I’m sorry, Angie, but you have too many good hair days for us to ever be friends.
See. I told you. Good stuff. If you like Rebecca and want to find out more about her you can go here…http://thechristycircus.com/2013/05/23/i-dont-like-angelina-jolie/
If you want to read the articles I referenced in this blog you can go here…http://www.baxterbulletin.com/article/20131031/OPINION/310310011/Rick-Jensen-NFL-sees-green-pink-chance-profit-from-cancer and here… http://www.prurgent.com/2013-10-22/pressrelease322321.htm