Tuesday, February 15, 2011
As I mentioned on Sunday, I checked out several books on breast cancer from the library (there are six more waiting for me to pick up.) I chose BOOBS as my first read because the first story in the book is about a woman named Beverly. I've not finished her story, but it's given me a lot to think about so far. She was also 45 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was Stage one, two tumors that were not detectable physically. They showed up on the mammogram. This other woman's husband had lost his mother to cancer. (My husband lost his mother to ovarian cancer.) Her treatment was different, though (at least from what I've read so far). Because her tumors were farther apart than mine, a lumpectomy would not have been as effective for her and after discussing this with her doctor and her husband she chose to have a mastectomy. She also had to have chemo.
I'm glad I didn't start reading this woman's story until after I had my surgeries and had already developed of plan of treatment with my doctors. As I started reading her story, of course I began to make comparisons between this other Beverly and myself. I know that's not always a good thing. Each woman is different. Even if the cancer is the same, the way it impacts the body can be very different. But it's normal to make comparisons. It's part of being human. This reminded me of when I heard that Elizabeth Edwards (the wife of John Edwards) had died from cancer. It really depressed me. My husband, whom I love very much, told me not to let it get me down. That her cancer was different. She didn't have just breast cancer, it had spread to her lungs and maybe other parts of her body as well. It wasn't the same thing. My husband wasn't the only who told me not to let Mrs. Edwards death get to me.Several friends said the same thing. I know this was a case of my loved ones trying to help me keep my spirits up - to help me not be any more frightened than I already was. But at the time, I was a little irritated. I felt as though they were dismissing my feelings (rationally - I know that wasn't the case, but emotions often play a bigger role in the lives of cancer patients than does rationality).
For me, being depressed over Mrs. Edwards' death seemed perfectly normal. (Now when I say depressed, I don't mean I sunk into doom and gloom - closed all the blinds, crawled into bed and hid under the covers - though if I had done that for a little while, that would have been ok, too. I just mean that it put a dent in my armor.) I know that Elizabeth Edward's cancer had spread beyond breast cancer, but that's where it started. And even if it was lung cancer or whatever that finally defeated her, all I could think was that breast cancer is what started it and we had just lost another woman to breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, in 2010 there were approximately 207,090 new cases of invasive breast cancer in women and in 2010 approximately 39,840 women died from breast cancer. We've come along way, but the race isn't over yet.
As these thoughts ramble around in my brain today, I'm reminded once again of how lucky I am. No woman wants breast cancer, but I have to agree with my doctor, that for a woman with breast cancer, I have the best case scenario. Just keep in mind that even though I know that and even though I feel as though I'm on the down hill stretch of this marathon, I'm only human and I will from time to time give into a little self pity and depression.
If you have a loved one battling cancer, keep in mind that while it is important to help keep their spirits up, it's also important to acknowledge the very real feelings of fear and depression. (Don't let them be carried away with those feelings, but allow them some time to deal with them. It's part of the healing process.)