Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Cancer, take a hike!

It's a soul-shaking moment when you're told you have cancer. Even when you're pretty sure those are the words about to be spoken, it's still a slap in the kisser. I had plenty of clues -- the exam when the doctor said she didn't like the feel of the lump -- should have rolled over like a grape, but it didn't; looking at the image of the tumor on the ultrasound screen and seeing its evil personality; waiting for at least a half hour on the table after the ultrasound for the attending physician to come in and talk to me. I knew. At each one of those moments, I knew. Yet...

It's one thing to suspect. It's another to hear it voiced. Flat out. "You have cancer." Imagine how stunning those words are to those who don't suspect. Imagine too how difficult it is to call and tell those you love and those who love you right back that you have cancer. Maybe that, in itself, is even harder than hearing the diagnosis yourself. It was for me.

And now, someone I love very much -- my cousin -- is saying "I have breast cancer" to friends and family. I know the pain. I've been there. Done that. And yet, even with that experience, I feel helpless and stunned. And, truly, it enrages me. Hey, I took your attack and handled it, you lousy cell invader. Leave my family alone. Go take a hike. Long walk, short pier. Go for it.

Better yet, take a hike yourself when the Walk for Cancer or Walk for the Cure is staged locally. Tell your friends and rally in record numbers. Is there anyone out there who hasn't been touched in some way by this disease? Not likely. It's epidemic. Let your voices be heard. Let your shoe leather hit the pavement. It's not only time for a cure, it's past time.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

I'm back. And I'm mad.

Most people, whether of Irish descent or not, recognize March 17 as Saint Patrick's Day. This year it offered a different celebratory context for me -- it marked the one-year anniversary of my last chemo treatment. I don't know what kind of a meal that calls for -- as opposed to corned beef and cabbage. Chicken breast, perhaps? Pink food? Although nothing comes to mind.

The most remarkable thing is, I didn't even realize it was my own personal anniversary until two weeks later. That's a good thing. It means breast cancer isn't my focus any more. It's now an afterthought. Past history. A fading memory.

Of course, fading memories have a way of reconstituting when poked by a similar occurrence. Last year, my college roommate and maid of honor was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a lumpectomy, followed by radiation. The wife of one of my designers was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy, chemo and reconstructive surgery. In the past two months, the daughter of one of my cousins was diagnosed and is scheduled for a mastectomy. Today, another cousin -- who is like a sister to me -- called and told me she too has breast cancer and will be having a mastectomy and most likely chemo.

What is going on here? I remember hearing a radio commercial about breast cancer within a day after my diagnosis, and suddenly thinking, oh, hey, that's me they're talking about. That's my life now. I'm in that club nobody wants to belong to. The club with ridiculously high dues.

And the membership keeps growing exponentially. It's a club that needs to be shut down, with the door nailed shut, so that nobody else can get in. Everyday, somewhere in the world, a diagnosed young mother is lying awake at night wondering who will raise her children if it ends badly. And her mother is losing sleep too, worried about the battle her daughter is waging. Husbands are frightened. Fathers. Children. Siblings.

When will this insidious disease go the way of the plague and let us all get some well-deserved sleep? I don't know. Some day. Not soon enough. So tell your wives, daughters, cousin, mothers, best friends to get checked annually so that if they get tagged by breast cancer, they can evict the little tenant before it damages the property.

I haven't blogged for awhile. Took a little time off to get my aching knees operated on and to distance myself from the breast cancer saga. But I'm back. And I'm mad that those I love and care about are beginning their own saga. And I think I want to talk about it. Yeah, I've got more to say about it. How about you?