Well, You Must Have Done Something

Believe it or not, I don’t always blog everything right away.  Some stories, for whatever reason, just need to age a bit before they’re ready to be told.  Or is that fester?  I guess it depends upon the subject matter.  So, in spite of the fact that I actually do have a newer story, you’re going to get an older one.  Because I’m feeling like telling it now.

 About a year and a half or so ago, when my hair was short enough that it was pretty obvious that I’d recently finished chemo, Susie and I went to a dinner together.  This particular dinner was a fundraiser for the local Right to Life association, which another friend of ours is heavily involved in.

 We were seated at a table with our friend and a few other people.  Introductions were made and our friend told the folks at our table that I was a breast cancer survivor.  They asked me some questions about my treatment, and we made some general small talk before the meal.  No big deal.  Dinner was served, and our friend got up to introduce the guest speaker.  The speaker’s claim to fame was that she was Malcolm X’s dog groomer’s niece.  Or maybe she was the uncle’s 3rd cousin’s step-daughter of another famous figure of the civil rights movement.  (Something like that.  I don’t remember exactly—chemo brain, you know.)  And she’d had an abortion when she was younger.

 So, there we sat as this lady spoke about all the reasons why it’s a bad idea to have an abortion.  All the things you’d expect to hear were in there, spoken about and projected in a Power Point presentation containing neatly arranged bulleted lists.  And all was well until she got to the part where she announced that a big reason not to have an abortion was because it causes breast cancer.

 Yeah, she really did say that.  And lest any of us not hear her right, there it was on that bulleted list.  So meanwhile, there I sit trying to keep my cool, feeling as if there is now this ginormous spotlight shining down on me, thinking, “Great, now all these folks at my table are saying to themselves, ‘Oh, so THAT’S why she got The Cancer.’”  That’s just fabulous lady, thanks a lot.  Hey, how about next time you make up some random scary thing to try to make your point you pick another malady?  Like maybe The Gout or The Hammer Toe.  Cancer girls have got enough stress already.

 Gee, if only breast cancer prevention were that easy, right?  Don’t want cancer, don’t have an abortion.  And, seriously, that was what this lady was saying—if you have an abortion, you will get breast cancer.  Of course, the fact that she didn’t have breast cancer, and therefore disproved her own theory, seemed to completely elude her.  Which somehow didn’t surprise me in the least.

 Sure, it doesn’t make any sense, but you know how that goes—if you say it enough, or if, God forbid, it ends up on the internet, then some people will start to believe it.  You know, we cancer girls already have to put up with our share of “well, what did you do that caused this” crap.  Do you smoke?  Do you wear deodorant?  What do you eat?  We get all those ignorant questions and more.  Do we really need to have the abortion question thrown in there, too?  Or worse yet, not the spoken question, but the unspoken assumption? 

 Listen up—I didn’t DO anything to cause The Cancer.  My friend Tanya didn’t DO anything to get The Cancer.  My girls Nina and Shirley didn’t somehow bring The Cancer on themselves.  Folks, it just IS.  Some things don’t have easy explanations.  You know, I wish there were a list of things to avoid that if adhered to, would guarantee you’ll never get The Cancer.  Avoid circus peanuts, abortions, tobacco, and Hot Pockets and you’ll always be cancer-free.  Make sure to eat three rum-soaked raisins, do yoga, wear garments made of a 50/50 blend of organic cotton and hemp, and drink a half cup of garlic steeped in hot vinegar every day and you’ll be invincible. 

 But there’s not a list like that.  And that’s why it’s important to get your mammos and do those self-exams.  A Hot Pocket-free life won’t save you, but vigilance just might.

Good Attitude

Y’all are not gonna believe this. I have to have *another* lumpectomy. We went to see Dr Schmidt today and he ended up sending me for a mammogram. The mammogram showed some calcifications. Calcifications, for those of you who don’t know, can be a sign of breast cancer. In the general population it’s about a 10% chance. Of course, I’m not the general population—I’m cancer girl—so, Dr Schmidt wants to do a surgical biopsy.

Now, you’re probably thinking (but you’d never have the nerve to actually say it—which is a good thing, because you might get hurt), “Why don’t you just lop the thing off and get it over with?” Well, to tell you the truth, that was my line of thinking, too. I thought, “I do not want to do another lumpectomy. This is getting ridiculous. As much as I’ve fought tooth & nail to save the boob thus far, I’m ready to move on and start planning reconstruction.” But, Dr Schmidt says we need to figure out what we’re dealing with first. So, I’ll be having another surgery in two weeks.

Of course, in the process of all of this, I had to meet with the radiologist to go over the mammogram. He came into the room to break the news to me that he was recommending a biopsy. Like Stuart Smalley, he was doing his best to be a caring nurturer, expecting me to be all emotional or something. (The whole time I’m thinking, “Yeah, yeah, yeah…can I go talk to Dr Schmidt now?” and “Man, I’m hungry—I knew we should have stopped at Panera!”) “I’m sorry,” he said, “Do you have any questions?” He seemed a little shocked when I was like, “Look, I’ve done this before. I knew the purpose for coming up here for the mammo was to help determine whether of not I get to keep the breast. It’s really not a big deal.” He commented that I had a really good attitude. I thought, “Buddy, I don’t even have my good attitude with me at this point—it’s out in the waiting room with my coffee. This is my annoyed, let’s-get-on-with-it attitude you’re looking at.”

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Wouldn’t it be great if everyone thought that way? Like, if anything that wasn’t sobbing or freaking out was considered a good attitude. Man! My life would be so much easier if when someone was sapping my will to live with some boring cancer story, I could just be really short with them and they’d still say what a good attitude I had. “You know Eunice, I thought that story about how my friend died from breast cancer would upset her, but instead she just had this really great attitude when she told me, ‘Cancer isn’t killing me, but your story is, please excuse me while I run away as fast as I can.’ She’s just such an inspiration to us all.”