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OCTOBER 17, 2009 9:08PM

Breast Cancer Kills

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Once upon a time there was a woman named Kathy, with six grown children and thirteen grandchildren.  She was a wise woman and knew to get yearly mammograms.  One fine summer day, the family was having a picnic in her backyard.  Everyone at corn on the cob, fried chicken and salads of all varieties, finishing it off with big slices of watermelon and home baked chocolate chip cookies.  Even her mother, still sprightly at 82, was enjoying the day.

When the last plate of food had been eaten and the grandkids were running around chasing fireflies, Kathy stood up.  “I have something to tell you,” she said.  “I’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer.” 

The family was stunned.  Questioning provided the following insights.  Yes, it had already spread to many of her lymph nodes, so it was at least stage 2 and possibly stage 3a even though it was small.  No, it was not something she could feel until they pointed it out to her.  It was very close to the chest wall, not actually in the main part of her breast.  But yes, she did know that something had to be wrong, because for the previous 3 years they always made her come back and re-do the mammogram on that side.  She had never asked why, or else didn’t understand it if they did tell her.

According to some sites, stage 2 breast cancer has a 5-year survival rate of 81% and stage 3a a 5-year survival rate of 67%.  The family was optimistic.  Several of them knew women who had battled breast cancer for longer than that, and even gone into remission.  They kept Kathy’s spirits up, helping out however they could.

Kathy had the lump removed, and then battled breast cancer for six years, before the cancer hit her liver.  Her daughter called the oncologist, frantic, telling him that she’d read online that the outlook at that point was 2-4 months, on average.  The doctor assured her that “that was then”, and there were all kinds of new treatments that gave new hope and more time.  So the family remained optimistic. 

In July 2007, Kathy passed away.  It was roughly six years after her initial diagnosis, and four and a half months after it was detected in her liver.  Because of her compromised immune system, she contracted a septic infection that could not be controlled.  Have you ever heard a grown woman, with grandchildren of her own, crying out for her mommy?  That will rip your heart out.  Kathy died in the hospital, not even any time to move her to a comforting hospice unit, delirious with the fever but surrounded by her family and with her mommy holding her hand.  She was 64 years old.

We miss you, Mom.

 

Lessons:

  1. When you’re doing your breast self-examination, feel ALL AROUND.  Don’t just feel around the easy bits and call it quits.
  2. If they ever want to re-do a mammogram for any reason, make sure you understand WHY.  If it’s because they see something, demand a biopsy.  Don’t wait.
  3. When in doubt, get a second opinion.  Heck, even when NOT in doubt, get a second opinion.
  4. Sometimes it pays to be optimistic.  Sometimes it pays to be pessimistic.  And sometimes it pays to just let go and enjoy what time you have left.
  5. Five-year survival rates are crap.  Sure, you might LIVE five years, but you sure as hell may not enjoy them.  Check your 10-year survival rates.  That’s gonna give you a more realistic picture.
  6. Breast cancer kills.
  7. Never forget that.  Breast cancer kills.

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Comments

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I feel for you. My mother died lastyearfrom cancer. She wasan RNand took mamagrams, the doctor she worked for died from cancer before her. I didalot of research. I found out that cancer is a virus accompanied by candida a form of fungus that feeds off it. I found out that natural means could be used to fix it. I found out that in an alkaline PH it cannot exist. I found out that there are many ways to combat it apart from chemo and radiation. I found out that even electromagnetic frequencies can eliminate it. I found out that doctors don't make any money off those things. I am sorry, but it was'nt me who withheld the truth from her. My mother worshiped doctors. She is dead.
Thank you, Cat, your comment means a lot. If only we knew then what we know now. Doctors are not infallible, and they can be every bit as inappropriately optimistic as us laypeople. I'm not saying be a pessimist, just that I certainly don't plan on just putting on a "doctor knows best" face.
handymn, I'm so sorry for your loss. I hope you're healing.
I am so sorry for your loss. I have two sisters who are survivors, we lost my husband's mother, there are others in the family fighting various battles. Thank you for this important message.
Condolences and hugs.
Heartbreaking.

Here is my problem with breast cancer. After they remove the cancer and you do radiation and chemo, they pronounce you "cancer-free!" and give you yearly checkups to check your breasts. In the meantime, sure enough, the cancer is spreading to your liver, spine, lungs or brain. And they don't look for that until bingo! it shows up and then it's merely a matter of time, as Elizabeth Edwards knows. It's barbaric that these women are not given aggressive testing to look for the spread of cancer so they can treat it before it kills them!
And I too am sick of doctors and their stupid "optimism"; it's also called denial!
Every day:
http://www.thebreastcancersite.com/clickToGive/home.faces?siteId=2
Sally, you are a strong family! I hope all continues to go well.
zuma, thanks so much.
Deborah, I would kiss you right now! That's why my mother's case was pissing me off so much. They were just doing the "watchful waiting" thing, meanwhile maybe reason the lump itself was not getting any bigger because the cancer was busy spreading elsewhere!
Scribblenerd, thanks for the link.