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The Big C and All That Jazz

Yesterday I was at the local co-op talking to a friend about my "breast cancer" - basically, I've been "diagnosed" with "Stage 0 in situ", meaning, as far as I can tell, that I have abnormal cells but no actual tumor.  Which puts me at increased risk for developing one "maybe within 5-10 years", according to the brochure the surgeon gave me.  She then informed me that she wanted to schedule me for a lumpectomy and radiation right away.

Ah, the crazymaking.


[My thoughts about western medicine, the Big C, and the kind of fun that isn't]I could hear the tone in her voice, a subtle pressure verging on fearfulness.

I believe we all have "abnormal cells." And maybe I'm wrong, but as far as I can tell, there's no guarantees, and the surgeon had no definitive answers.  Will I even develop a tumor, what the percentages, what will my life expectancy be if I go through the western medicine route, as opposite to watch it and do nothing?  The only thing she could offer was "imaging techniques aren't perfect and it might be worse than we think it is."  Hello?  Two mammograms, a biopsy and MRI, and you still don't know what we have on our hands?

So I repeated, over and over, that I was not ready to have my breast cut into.  Because I'm not.  Because there is no tumor there.  Maybe someday there will be, but I know about the possibility, so it's my job to monitor it, to take care of my body, and so forth. Because it is MY body.  And there's the fact that I worked very hard, for years, to heal my body from the worst symptoms of lupus; I've been off pain killers for almost 20 years due to exercise, nutrition, suppliments. And the last thing I want, or need, is to undo all of that, and destroy my immune system with radiation, when I'm not convinced it's necessary. I don't see how destroying my body increases my life-span.

I'm not saying "western medicine is always bad!"  I'm not claiming vitamins are a cure for everything - I'm no fanatic (or Scientologist). I go to a neurologist and take medications for my epilepsy to prevent seizures; there's no other treatment for that, at least that I've found at the moment (I've looked, believe me).  Any form of medicine is a tool, like a hammer or saw, and only works when applied properly.

So I feel comfortable with the choice I have made - for ME, at this moment.  I have friends who have undergone treatment for breast cancer, and some are doing very well; others are suffering tremendously, more perhaps than if they'd done nothing.  There are no guarantees, only choices.  I would never dictate to anyone else what their choice should be, or that they were wrong because they make a different choice than I have.

So when I was talking to my friend about all of this yesterday, I was surprised by a customer at the store, a stranger to me, suddenly broke into the conversation to tell me what I "had" to do, that I had to have this or that done, that I was at greater risk, and what was my ethnicity (because some ethnic groups are supposedly at greater risk) and btw she had had a mastectomy, and so forth.  I finally ended up putting my hand on her shoulder - something I've never done to a stranger before - and told her to stop. That I respected her choice, but she needed to respect mine, and that was the end of that.  (I'm paraphrasing here, of course.)

She did come back later and apologized, and I accepted her apology with a smile and was (I hope) gracious about it.  In retrospect, perhaps I shouldn't have engaged at all, perhaps I should have walked away immediately?  Or perhaps that was exactly what she needed to happen; to vent her feelings, and I was a safe person (as a stranger) to do that with.  Perhaps she needed someone who could absorb that, and help her let it go.  Perhaps I'm overthinking the whole damn business.

If I learned anything from yesterday, (besides "be more discreet in public"), I suppose it's that this - cancer, and particularly breast cancer, is a VERY hot topic. I just had no idea how much so, but I can understand it.  There's something very close to the core about it, and I've had epilepsy, lupus, blood clots, etc - I'm no stranger to medical treatments, to the ways in which the body can be a traitor no matter what you do (and I think I'm in very good health, all things considered.)  I had willingly agreed to have the biopsy, thinking it was "no big deal", but when I got home and felt that place where they put the titanium tag inside me, and saw the little scar on my breast, I felt oddly sad about it in a way I can't begin to understand.  So I can hardly imagine what this other women might be feeling, having an entire breast sliced away.  Does she doubt her decision, and sublimates that uncertainty by broadcasting a false certainty to others as to what they "should do"?  I can't begin to say.

Or perhaps it's all as simple as "keep my damn mouth shut in future".
Yikes. O.o

I think you were right to make the decision that felt right to you. Take care.
Thank you for the encouragement! What bothered me in both cases (the surgeon and the stranger) was the notion they both had that I could not possibly judge for myself what is right for me. And ironically - though I wasn't thinking of it at the time I wrote this yesterday - this came from two other women.)

(This was not exactly the first post I planned for this journal - I intended something more warm and fluffy-ish and Buffy-ish but...it is what it is.)
It feels odd addressing such an intimate issue when I - I confess - I don't know who you are! (I assume, from mutual lj friends, we know each other through TAFT?)

With that disclaimer out of the way, I have an acquaintance who lectures women ad nauseum about breast cancer risks at every social gathering we go to. It's always the same lecture. It takes very little to trigger it.

She's a breast cancer survivor. I get that it's central to her. But she doesn't seem to get that the women she's talking to are very educated and informed on health care. We're competent to make our own decisions. Nor does she get that repeating her lecture to us every three months will not make her more persuasive. It'll just piss us off.

You're right. It's a hot topic. Everyone has a strong opinion. I'm sorry you were subjected to hysteria and bullying. Not what you needed on top of a trying diagnosis.

You have a right to your decisions.

I hope for nothing but the best for you.

(And tell me how we know each other, k? please?)
You're right. It's a hot topic. Everyone has a strong opinion. I'm sorry you were subjected to hysteria and bullying. Not what you needed on top of a trying diagnosis.

You have a right to your decisions.

I hope for nothing but the best for you.


Thank you. I've noticed even at home with my partner there's a certain amount of "This has to be my decision" I need to repeat - sometimes to the doctors and myself as well. (I went to the oncologist yesterday - that's a topic for another post - suffice to say it didn't go as well as I'd hoped. Not that I'm going to die in six weeks, but they make it sound terribly dire if I don't do something RIGHT AWAY.)

And I'm sorry that you find yourself subjected to that as well. I've noticed other people, other situations, where women (usually) go into a rant about what "people should do" about their bodies, their health - and isn't that counterproductive? Wasn't one of the ideas of the feminist movement that every women/person has the right to agency with regards to their lives and bodies? (I guess "our bodies, ourselves" is the short way of saying it.)

And I apologize if friending you is inappropriate - I admit we don't know each other, but I've admired your comments on BtVS, etc in other LJ's. (I think the royal anna's but I'm not 100% on that.) I probably ought to have asked first? (I'm very new to LJ, whereas I've been on FB a while and there's no asking, just clicking a button.) If you want to unfriend me, I do understand, and again apologize if I was out-of-line.

Janice
eeep! my bad.
And I apologize if friending you is inappropriate

I did SO not mean to imply anything like that. I just thought if we did know each other by another name from another venue, I better fess up to not placing you before I was too embarrassed to do so.

My flist on lj grew from the initial teensy group - to a slightly less teensy group - precisely by adding people whose replies I kept nodding my head at on other people's ljs.

I've admired your comments on BtVS, etc in other LJ's

Aw, shucks. And thank you. I AM fabulous. (It may have been the royal anna.)
Re: eeep! my bad.
I AM fabulous

Sing it! *lol* There's modesty, of course, but it seems as though women are conditioned into a false modesty that's just - well, false. (What, this old thing? etc) I referred to a friend one time as "a goddess" because, frankly, she is, and she thought I was making fun of her when I was paying her a compliment.

My flist on lj grew from the initial teensy group - to a slightly less teensy group - precisely by adding people whose replies I kept nodding my head at on other people's ljs

That's how I've been going about it. Everyone has been extremely kind and gracious so far. I watched Buffy for the first time a couple of months ago, and found all these wonderful comments and metas on different lj's that I enjoyed much more than some of the run-of-the-mill forums on the subject - more intelligent, creative, well-written, less snarky etc.

And don't worry about embarrassing me, I don't embarrass easily!

Janice