There are three sides to every story. Not an unfamiliar statement to most. Me? The person from whom I heard those words: My Dad. Many of us will celebrate these holidays still saddened by the loss of loved ones and again, I say, I miss my dad. So. Much.
This may not qualify as a "story," but nonetheless, it does have the requisite "Three Sides." Here goes, the three faces of "Prevention Is The Cure." Their Side, Our Side and The Truth.
Their Side: There are things we can be doing to reduce our risk of cancer. I'm not going into a dissertation. Most of us know what we should be doing. Some of the information is conflicting and the bottom line? DESPITE doing everything right, people will get cancer. I didn't understand why someone tweeted such disgust over hearing "prevention is the cure." Now I get it. Some of us are subjected to insinuations that a breast cancer diagnosis was the result of something we did or something we failed to do. That somehow, WE should have been able to prevent the disease and our cancer is our own fault. It's your diet, your alcohol intake, your lack of exercise. And even if our choices were less than stellar, do we REALLY NEED to hear that in a time of utter terror anyway? A word of advice to friends, family and anyone else who thinks it's appropriate to make these comments, if I may? S.T.F.U. REALLY, not appropriate. Sensitivity training is in order. We do ENOUGH to beat ourselves up at diagnosis, during treatment and in the years that follow. Personally, I suffer survivor guilt when I see those who are in treatment for metastatic disease and my ONLY "real" problem is that I feel like The Scarecrow. If I Only Had A Brain.
Our Side: To the cancer patients who feel that the catchphrase "Prevention Is The Cure" is simply an extension of being guilted out by the medical community or by some of the organizations and researchers working tirelessly to help us, this is not simply more people laying the responsibility for a cancer diagnosis at our feet. When THEY say this, they are not preaching lifestyle or asking, "What did YOU DO to develop your cancer?" The statement means exactly as it reads. The way to CURE breast cancer is to PREVENT it in the first place. A cure is needed for those living with the active disease or surviving with NED (no evidence of disease) and the research, in my strongest possible opinion, should be focused on curing and then repairing the damage done in the quest for NED. In my case, I'd like my old brain not that it was such a fabulous brain but it's damn frustrating to KNOW the difference between what was and what IS. Yes, I'd like my old brain back. I'd like to ditch those words, "new normal." I'd like to stop freaking over every pain that lingers for more than ten minutes and I'd love to lose the need for ongoing and constant follow-ups with doctors. I'd like the researchers to study in earnest to figure out WHY some of us develop breast cancer. In finding out why, they will be taking a giant leap toward figuring out HOW to prevent this disease in future generations.
The Truth: The National Cancer Act was signed on December 23, 1971. Happy Friggen Birthday. I wanted to be the first to say Happy Birthday so I'm a day early. FORTY YEARS AGO. Officially, Day One in The War on Cancer. This pisses me off in ways I can't begin to describe. How much did you accomplish in your lifetime, National Cancer Act? Still living with mommy? Typical Underachiever. AND, not for nothing, but thanks to The Pink Thing, I'm guessing there have been MORE dollars thrown at that pink ribbon than at any other cancer. Going for drama..... probably more money thrown pinkward than all other cancers combined? No need to tell me if I'm wrong I'm making a point, punctuating it with a bit of dramatic effect (poetic license if you will).... can I ask you just go with it please?
It's time to shift everything. It's time to shake things up. It's time to understand WHY. It's time for real change. It's time to change the stupid status quo. More poison? Newer poison? Better plastic surgery techniques? New drugs to counteract the effects of the poison? More targeted radiation to prevent damage to perfectly healthy tissue? More effective creams to help with those radiation burns? Specialized areas of mental health to deal with the fallout that begins with those dreaded words and continues for a long time post active treatment? THIS is a giant waste of money and talent. Just My OPINION.
Bottom line. Despite billions of dollars and decades of research we are still being mutilated, we are still losing our hair, we are still throwing our guts up, we are still developing awful sores in our mouths, we are still suffering with lymphedema, we are still dealing with PTSD. We are just dealing with it a little better. Supposedly. Personally, I hate throwing up whether it's a violent and sudden projectile thing or that tingling feeling in my jowls that has me sitting on the floor of a bathroom all by myself within the chemo suite because I knew I would not make it to the exit of the building without making a mess somewhere in the lobby.
This day. Early afternoon. January 16, 2007. I did a quick assessment as I faced doors number one and two. I didn't want to draw the attention of a patient still being poisoned or an oncology nurse who was needed by said patient, in that particular moment, more than I needed her. Vomiting assistance is only required when you need a friend to hold back your hair if you get what I mean. I wasn't wobbly on my feet and I was perfectly capable of handling the hair situation (and fyi-The Truest Test of A Real Friend, I mean really.... think about it....) I just wanted to get it over with already. That jowl thing was getting pretty persistent. In front of me, the door leading out of the torture chamber to the outside world. To my left, the bathroom. Decisions, decisions. I decided. "Left." And there I sprawled. On a cold tile floor. Leaning over what I hoped was a pristine, germ free toilet. Nauseous, crying and waiting to hurl the contents of my fairly empty stomach. Ten solid minutes. Countless dry heaves. Several hurls. All Alone**.
Is is appropriate to be Debbie Downer right before Christmas? Yes. People will die. The Grim Reaper doesn't check the calendar before deciding that will be The. Last. Breath. As long as that is true and many will die over this weekend, I'm not Debbie Downer. I'm Realistic Rita and Bitter Better and Activist AnneMarie all rolled into one.
Can we all get on the same page? 2012. I'll be making noise. That's My Promise to myself-My Holiday Gift to me and to my daughter and to women everywhere. I am still figuring out how to shake things up but I am persistent, I have some ideas and my new OCD ChemoBrain adds to that persistence. The Upside to My ChemoBrain.
The National Cancer Act? Little more than words on a (several) page(s). That may be my springboard. And to think....... I got The Good Cancer. I had The Mild Chemo. I Got a Free Boob Job. I am In Remission; And the TOTALLY misinformed might insist I am Cured. How awful for those not nearly quite lucky.
***All alone. Not being a martyr. Hated company during chemo. Being alone was by choice. My choice and I lied to quite a number of people about who would be taking me for that particular poisoning. Everyone who asked was provided with the name of someone they did not know and could not "check with" to see if they could "split the shift." Specifically, that is to YOU mom..... dispense with the guilt and remember, your hands were full at the time.
There WILL be a Happy Happy Joy Joy entry up tomorrow. Just had to get this off my chest.