Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A Tale of Two Titties

Stupid title, serious post. Because both ladies attached to the namesakes of this post are still living, I have changed their names to protect their privacy.

Now, with only a few hours left in breast cancer awareness month, I want to tell you about two very different women who have faced the same disease - breast cancer. Just as the women are different, their stories are different and their stories' endings are different.

Monica felt a lump in her breast and went to see her doctor. She went and had a mammogram and her lump looked quite suspicious. The doctors operated, removing her breast. She had chemo and lost her hair - but she never lost her will to live or her sense of humor. Rather than tell the same news over and over again, she began writing a newsletter to her family and friends that she called the "Booby Trap". She recounted the trials of finding just the right bra, how itchy her scalp was when her hair started to regrow, the dilemma of a dress for a wedding. When presented with the opportunity to have her breast reconstructed, she mulled over the advantages and the disadvantages of having gigantic breasts as opposed to the size she used to be (she opted for her own size). Yes, there was pain - but there was also laughter, and lots of it. Her friends stood by her, held her when she cried, smiled at her jokes and cheered her on. Today, she is a vital woman with a loving family and a wide, caring circle of friends.

Laura also felt a lump in her breast, while showering. She pretended it wasn't there. She had a busy life with her husband in their small business together. She didn't have time to be sick. She also didn't have any insurance. Everything they had was in their business. And they were happy together. But the lump kept growing until she finally couldn't ignore it anymore. She went to the doctor, who diagnosed breast cancer. He gave her options, but she turned them all down. Was it the lack of insurance? Was it fear of losing everything they'd worked so hard to build? Or was she depending on the grace of God to heal her? She never did say. She went on a special diet. She lost a lot of weight. She continued going to work each day, but got weaker and weaker. Finally, she wasn't strong enough to continue going to work. Her husband closed up shop and found a job with insurance but it was too late. The new insurance wouldn't cover a pre-existing condition. While at a healing retreat, she broke her leg. The doctors there wouldn't set it - there was nothing to set. The cancer had eaten away at her bones until there was nothing to be done. They were crumbling on their own. Laura rode home in a borrowed van wearing a full body cast. She is living on borrowed time. She too has family and friends who are keeping her company, but the mood is totally different here. They are there, watching her die a little more every day. Trying to help, trying to ease her pain where she doesn't want help or painkillers. Laura has finally accepted morphine and hospice spends a great deal of time with her. She has made it to the end of the month when no one really expected her to. She will leave behind a grieving husband, bewildered at her seemingly intentional desertion and lost without her. Her mother, a breast cancer survivor herself, is unbearably sad. And her friends, who were friends with a smiling, sociable lady will remember a woman wracked with pain and denial.

Which story would be yours? Today is the last day of breast cancer awareness month. But for those of us who have had friends or family with breast cancer, for those of us who live with shadows that may or may not be cancer and have mammograms and ultrasounds looming in ever shortening circles - every month is breast cancer awareness month.

You can help other women take the first step in taking care of their health. Go to The Breast Cancer Site. You can sign up to have a reminder email sent to you everyday so that you will never forget to click on the "Fund Free Mammograms" button which helps provide free mammograms to underprivileged women.

Go there. Go there now. I'll wait.

http://www.thebreastcancersite.com/tpc/ERB_103107_BCS

There. Now don't you feel better?

5 comments:

Annie W. said...

Great post, Sarah... Thank you. I had invasive breast cancer last year.. with the full 9 yards of treatments, etc. I am like your friend, Monica. I love her outlook...the 'Booby trap', indeed!
Thank you for bringing even more awareness to this dreaded disease. Lumps should never be ignored.

hugs

nikki said...

A really awesome post lady. It makes me want to run home and feel myself up to check. Great job.

Pendullum said...

So very sad...
I have lost three girlfriends to cancer...
And I am young...
Or so I like to think of myself as young...
Thanks for the reminder...
And I am so sorry about Laura... So, very, sorry indeed...

Babzy said...

Hi Sarah (now I know your REAL name). This is a great post. I'm going to direct my sister over here and others as I think of them. I'm pretty sure I'm overdue for a mammogram which is really stupid because in Canada we're covered. Thank you for the reminder.

Polly P said...

Like you I have had two friends, both of whom have been diagnosed with breast cancer.
My story is little different from yours, except that one has been in remission, got married a couple of weeks back & is now awaiting mastectomy & reconstructive surgery following the appearance of a new primary growth.

My other friend, the extravert who thought little of flashing her wares from the back bedroom window all those years ago at the Halloween Party is dead. She was too embarassed to flash at her GP & it killed her.

Both women were 32 years old when they were diagnosed. Their tale has affected me far more than I can begin to say.

My own health has suffered, not with anything nasty, thank God, and these two ladies have each helped me get my life into perspective. If I am not well then I shouldn't be pushing myself to work while pushing my life and my loved ones away. Life is too short for that; it has taken something pretty drastic to make me see that there is more to life than a career.
Thank you for putting me back in touch with my two friends and thank you for a wonderful, thought provoking blog.