Monday, October 29, 2012

Three Long Years Ago...

What a difference three years makes. This time three years ago I was bald, pregnant, and living with breast cancer treatments. For Halloween, I painted my 8-month belly as a turkey in honor of the due date of my baby girl. That year's Thanksgiving was especially well observed by my family and friends as we welcomed my baby girl, celebrated her daddy's birthday, were amazed at our survival of a breast cancer diagnosis at 20 weeks pregnant, as well as enjoyed usual Thanksgiving traditions.

Two years ago, I was recovering from an emergency hysterectomy precipitated by an abscess formed during my oophorectomy a month prior. The oophorectomy was a preemptive move to avoid ovarian cancer that so often goes along with BRCA1 breast cancer genes. I also had the honor of being blessed with the gift of the Right to Life of Owensboro's Life Award for my pro-life and pro-woman journey through breast cancer while pregnant. My children were well on their way to charming anyone within distance of the two year old boy and almost one year old girl.

One year ago, I was in a hospital in Houston, TX recovering from my third reconstructive surgery. This third surgery was one of my last steps to completely overcome the obstacle of my journey with breast cancer. I had my modified radical mastectomy when my daughter was about three months old. However, the second surgery, replacement of the expander implants with regular implants, had the unforeseen consequence of causing further pain. In an effort to recover from the pain, I chose to have the implants completely removed and use my own abdominal fat tissue to reconstruct my breasts. The surgery was long, difficult, and painful, but resolved some of the pain issues. Shortly before this surgery, I was again honored. This time the honor came from the Kentucky Cancer Program. Rachel and I were selected to be representatives of the Faces of Cancer photography series.

Five months ago, I had my last surgery (I hope and pray) connected to my breast cancer diagnosis. This last surgery gave (Dr) Adams (back) my first rib. Again, this surgery was a last-ditch effort to resolve the pain that hadn't loosened its grip on me since my mastectomy.  I had finally been diagnosed with something "treatable" instead of chronic idiopathic pain. Although Thoracic Outlet Syndrome isn't truly "curable" it is treatable with surgery, physical therapy, and time.

Just this past week, I had my four month check-up with my oncologist. He gave me an all-clear for another four months. Although no one really thinks I'll be diagnosed with cancer again, these appointments make me very nervous. That same day I also took the opportunity to peek through an open window as the door closes on another aspect of my life. 

In less than a month, my miracle baby will turn three. Time really does fly when you're having fun. Both of my children give me such joy and are so much fun that time with them seems truly fleeting. As my children blur in photographs, so too do the misfortunes that have faced me, my family, and my friends these past three years.

Since my diagnosis that fateful July day, I have tried to live my life as if each day is my last. I praise God for all the wonderful people He surrounded me with through this difficult time. He also gets many thanks for the blessings of my two very healthy (some might even say robust) children. My husband and I know that we are triply blessed to have three sets of very active grandparents to help us care for our babies. We also offer thanks for our joining our lives as one. Above all, each and every day is an opportunity to praise God for the most important gift of all: LIFE!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Another Breast Cancer "Awareness" Month

Its October again... Everything is swathed in pink. Please take the following as advice before you cover yourself in pink for the "cause"... Breast Cancer Awareness month is an euphemism for "Give us money so we can pay our salaries"! Forgive me if I sound bitter or snide, but I was diagnosed at 28 years old and 20 weeks pregnant and Komen, American Cancer Society, and most (if not all) big name "Awareness" groups offered me two choices when I was diagnosed: 1) hope that I didn't die before I had my baby without treatment or 2) kill my baby to seek treatment. However, MD Anderson had (has) been doing chemo on pregnant women for more than 20 years with better results than on similar post-abortive mothers. No thanks to those big-name organizations, not only did I survive, but also my almost 3 year old daughter survived as well! We are the fifth and sixth generation of survivors, but only the last three of us actually survived (my mother is now a 7 year survivor, but her mother died at 58 and her grandmother and great grandmother died in their 40s).

How did those big organizations "support" me in my time of need? How do those big name organizations further the "cure" by not only killing future generations but also condemning those women who fall for their lies to worse survival rates? Who gains by the continued denials of links or causation of breast cancer by hormonal contraceptives and abortions? Where's the "cure" there. "Awareness" means less than nothing if erring on the side of caution (for instance publicly admitting possible links/causation between hormonal contraceptives and abortions and breast cancer -- and other cancers). It should be called "Brea$t Cancer Awarene$$" because all it does is line the pockets of the organizers while presenting false hope to victims and supporters!

Even if the scientific link between abortion and hormonal contraceptives is weak (it isn't), women deserve to be told the WHOLE truth about these "necessary" parts of "reproductive rights". For instance, the link between BPA and the ills it causes aren't much (if any) stronger than the links between hormonal contraceptives and breast cancer, yet everyone avoids BPA to err on the side of caution ( ). To be perfectly honest, I actually didn't realize until looking at the journal articles while writing this post, that the type of carcinogenic chemical of BPA is actually VERY similar to hormonal contraceptives (estradiol, estratone, estrogen-like chemicals). Why shouldn't the big organizations advocate the same type of caution for abortion and hormonal contraceptives? The WHO (World Health Organization) has ranked contraceptives as Level 1 carcinogens ( ). If the purpose of these organizations was truly to reduce breast cancer (and other cancers) wouldn't they advise women to avoid hormonal contraceptives? Instead, the supposed "benefits" of these "reproductive rights" are said to "outweigh" the risks... As a survivor, if I thought there was something I could do that was completely choice oriented to prevent my daughter from getting breast cancer, you'd better believe I'd do everything in my power to see that she made the right choice!

Where's the benefit of that type of false "awareness"? T-shirts, bumper stickers, etc with cutesy "Feel your Boobies" or "Save the Tatas" slogans* don't actually further the cause of finding a cure or providing real life support for victims. Instead all they do is demean the victims of this horrible disease. Don't get me wrong, I own a few t-shirts with similar slogans, but I AM a survivor. Plus, most of them (except the "Fight like a Girl" one) were given to me by friends in an effort to lift my spirits by letting me know they were supporting me in my struggle. The friends who gave me those t-shirts didn't just plunk down $20 for a shirt and consider themselves supporting me in my struggle. No, they actually DID things to help me: sent notes of care/support, listened while I cried or whined, helped me with a real task in life, prayed for me, spoke to me of courage and strength, etc. The t-shirt was just the physical and remaining reminder that they DID something that actually helped me--even if it was just emotional or mental help. That is the way true supporters can lend a hand to victims of this horrible disease.

Some of the newer more popular slogans are actually innuendos that over-sexualize the disease and body parts involved. The "boobies" I lost during my mastectomy weren't playthings or frivolous slightly naughty bits--they were nutrition for my son for his first year of life. They were a visible representation of my gender. Sadly, they were also linked, in ways I did not and still do not understand, to my self esteem and self image. Yes, I can laugh about cutting them off because they were trying to kill me, but you don't know the feelings I hide behind that laugh. I have numerous very real physical scars from the three surgeries to remove and "replace" those body parts, but worse than the physical scars are the emotional ones that no one--not even other survivors necessarily--can understand. Every women (or man, since they get breast cancer too) has different breasts, and her "relationship" (for lack of a better
word) is unique to her, so her response to these traitorous body parts and the subsequent removal or alteration of them is different too. Often, women are evaluated by their breasts because we live in a highly sexualized world. So losing or altering this most visible sign of womanhood can be highly traumatic. It's really only something some of us laugh about because the alternative is crying. When you add the other losses (loss of ovaries, tubes, uterus, cervix, etc) some of us face because of related cancers, the emotional toll rises and hearing or seeing such jocular interpretations of our loss(es) can be devastating.

If you're aware of breast cancer and want to help 1) find a struggling victim in your neighborhood or area to support, 2) thoroughly research any organization BEFORE donating, 3) don't play meaningless "games" for awareness sake, 4) open your eyes to the truth of breast cancer (and other cancers) and let others know it, and/or 5) pray for a cure, better survivability, and more real world support for victims. Those are things that really help real people who are victims!

*I don't mean to pick on just these two slogans, but they were the first ones to come to mind... I have no affiliation or hatred of any of these slogans except as explained above. If it makes you feel better about yourself, by all means wear or buy products with these types of slogans on them. However, don't expect me (or other victims/survivors) to appreciate it if that's all you do.

This post seen first at

My Chemo-Jane hair-style

My Chemo-Jane hair-style
I just had to have my mom buzz my hair because it was falling out so badly.

Pre-op wearing my hand-crocheted cap with my prayer shawl.

Pre-op wearing my hand-crocheted cap with my prayer shawl.
My loving husband is watching me distract myself with a game on his iPhone.

2 days after my BMX w/ 100ccs in the TEs

2 days after my BMX w/ 100ccs in the TEs
I even have a fashionable belt to hold up my drains.

3 weeks post-op w/ 400ccs in each TE

3 weeks post-op w/ 400ccs in each TE
The smile is fake because the TEs were irritating!