I always had difficulty asking for what I wanted or needed. I never wanted to be a bother, or cause anyone any trouble. Even when asked if I wanted something, or if someone could do something for me, it wouldn’t be unusual for me to demurely decline, stating, “Oh no, that’s okay”, even if deep down I really wanted to say yes.
I also often held back when I received something I didn’t like, whether it was a disappointing dish in a restaurant or an unflattering hairstyle. I can’t count how many times I quietly paid for something with which I wasn’t satisfied, only to then turn around and seek it elsewhere, hoping for better results. Read More →
Teddy Roosevelt is quoted as saying “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I’ve found this to be particularly true in the area of my own personal journey with cancer. I learned the hard way that comparing my disease to someone else’s not only steals my joy, it has the potential to chip away at my resolve. It can keep me awake at night, in a vortex of fearful speculation of my own making.
A little over two years ago, I was diagnosed with Stage IIIC fallopian tube cancer; and I’ve been managing my cancer and the subsequent side effects of treatment pretty much continuously ever since. In that time, I’ve learned that staying present and keeping a strong mental attitude are essential to my well being. Having recently been told that my cancer is of the recurrent sort, maintaining this mindset is now more important than ever. Read More →
Before my surgery, I spoke openly about my decision to undergo a prophylactic bi-lateral mastectomy in the wake of a BRCA-1 diagnosis. I’m now about six weeks post-surgery, the (proud?) owner of two brand spanking new “foobs” (fake boobs), and I’ve had some time to process the new additions.
First, I believe there’s a huge misconception among the general populous about what it means to have one’s breasts removed and replaced with artificial ones (if they are replaced at all). When speaking about my upcoming surgery, I had many well-meaning people say things like, “Well at least you get new boobs!” and, “Your husband must be so excited… has he picked ’em out yet?”
Yeah, well, it’s not quite like that. Not at all, in fact. Read More →
What do I have in common with Angelina Jolie (besides oversized lips that are apparent even in our baby photos)?
We’re both moms.
We both discovered through DNA testing that we carry the BRCA1 genetic mutation.
We were both told we have an 87 percent chance of contracting breast cancer in our respective lifetimes.
We both opted for a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy to dramatically reduce our risks.
And we have both been criticized for our decisions. Read More →
A year ago I had never even heard of National Cancer Survivor’s Day, a celebration of life held around the world. This year, however, it’s an incredibly important day for me.
What a difference a year makes. Read More →
So I’ve had my port-o-cath for a little over a year now. It’s literally a part of me. This little medical devise was implanted under my skin last spring to enable my medical team to obtain easier access to my veins for purposes of administering chemotherapy. The catheter connects the port to a large vein in my neck. And under the skin, the port has a bubble through which drugs can be injected and blood samples can be drawn with less discomfort than repeated needle sticks. That’s the purpose of getting a port; and by and large, this was true in my case. The port saved me (and my poor infusion nurses) a lot of angst. But oh how I fought getting it. Read More →
I don’t know what it feels like to have a child and not have the dark cloud of cancer hanging over my head. I was diagnosed with Stage 3C widespread gynecologic cancer when my daughter was just five days old. So, despite my best efforts to live each day in the moment, there’s almost always this niggling little voice in the back of my head reminding me, “you might not be here when that happens.”
I’ve tried to document things much more than I might have otherwise. That’s frankly one of the main reasons I did the CafeMom Studios documentary series, “It’s Cancer, Baby.” It’s also part of the reason I blog and write. I want my daughter to know me, even if I’m not around. And I don’t just want her to know about me. I want her to know about her as well, and how she was as a little girl. I love hearing my parents tell stories of how I was as a child. (Don’t we all?) So I decided to start writing periodic letters to my daughter at particular times in her life. Here’s the first one … Read More →
A fellow cancer fighter, the badass Kaylin Andres, wrote recently in the Huffington Post about her ongoing battle with cancer. Her perspective really resonated with me, now more than ever. She said,
“… you start to let go of the prevailing popular opinion that cancer is a battle with only two outcomes — cure or death. There is a third, secret option, relatively unknown to the general healthy public: you learn to live with it.”
Now, if someone had told me when I was first diagnosed with cancer that I’d just “have to learn to live with it”, I would have said fuck that. No way. I want it out and gone. I would have said that anything else is simply unacceptable.
However, the truth is that sometimes we have no choice but to accept the unacceptable. Because sometimes what we once thought of as unacceptable is simply reality.
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I recently found out that I have the BRCA1 genetic mutation. And even though I’ve recently gone through a hell of a year of intense treatment for widespread gynecologic cancer, I am now facing the fact that I am at very high risk for breast cancer. Like really high risk. I’m told that there is an 87 percent chance that I’ll contract breast cancer in my lifetime. And although at age 45, I’ve already lived through part of my lifetime risk, those odds are still uncomfortably high.
According to the National Cancer Institute, prophylactic mastectomy in high-risk women may reduce the risk of developing breast cancer by 90 percent. As I see it, I didn’t go through 3 surgeries, 24 rounds of aggressive chemotherapy, and a year of fighting my way back to health just to have another form of cancer come in the back door and take me out. Fuck that. This is why, when told that I could voluntarily remove my healthy breasts in order to save my life, I didn’t hesitate to say “I will.”
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I recently made the decision to seek genetic counseling and testing to determine if, given my history of cancer, my daughter was also at risk for contracting the disease. Turns out, she very well may be. My first step in the genetic testing process was to see if I carried either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations. If I tested negative, I would then have the option to go deeper and do further testing. Given my known family history and all of the relevant factors, I knew I had a relatively low 7.5% chance of testing positive for one of the mutuations. So I was surprised this week to learn that I had indeed tested positive for a BRCA1 deleterious mutation. In other words, I have the cancer gene. Read More →