And some more exciting prizes!

The last few posts have been a little gloomy, so I hope this one will be a little bit of fresh air.

During my last chemo infusion, I met this elegant woman, in her sixties I’d guess. She’d had cancer at least twice, but she said that she wouldn’t take any of the experience back. Her reasons were partly heartfelt: She met her husband in the infusion center. He was there with his wife during this woman’s first cancer. They all became friends. Then the wife died. The woman and the new widower grew close and eventually married. But, she said, it was more than that.

She didn’t really elaborate, but even four or five months into the cancer thing, I can guess what she means. Having cancer isn’t all bad. During the last couple days, I’ve been imagining how a game show host might introduce the good side of having this really scary disease:

You’ve just won the jackpot with these malignant biopsy results! We’re giving you an all-expenses paid (if you have health insurance) journey to the Tropic of Cancer.

There, you’ll be waited on by legions of doctors, nurses and technicians of all sorts who scan, poke, prod and do everything they can to make you better.

You will suddenly discover a huge community of other people who are facing, or have faced, the same journey to the isle of the big C. This community will be unbelievably supportive and generous with time, information, and advice.

Your friends and family, likewise, will send you tons of supportive cards and casseroles from Well-ville. You will discover that you are not the only person in the world who can cook.

If you are lucky enough to lounge on a beach, chemotherapy will make it unnecessary to have a bikini wax. You can also give up shaving your legs, since they won’t have any hair.

The nausea will help you lose weight so that you look better in that bikini.

And, if you don’t like beaches, radiation will send your offending body part to Cabo, while leaving the rest of your body at home.

You will learn the joys of sitting still, whether you want to or not.

You will learn to live day by day, whether you want to or not.

You will find more strength than you knew you had, whether you want to or not.

You will be humbled by the kindness of others, whether you want to or not.

And, hopefully, after six months to a year of seemingly endless treatments you’ll get a ticket from the Tropic of Cancer back to Well-ville. Have a nice trip!

So far, in a weird, almost inexplicable way, it has been.


About leftbreast

I have had breast cancer. I was diagnosed at 47, and am now 49. I have finished "active treatment," two surgeries, chemo, radiation, monoclonal antibodies. These days, I only take a drug to suppress my uptake of estrogen, since my tumor was highly reactive to that hormone. I have been married to my husband Pete for 21 years. I have a stepdaughter, Maureen, 30, and a daughter, Erin, 10. I've been a freelance magazine journalist for 20-plus years, covering everything from Chinese foreign policy to Catholic nuns to endangered species. I have had a great life. I have lived in Asia and all over the United States. I have spent nights with tree-sitters in Oregon and with astronomers at the Mauna Kea observatory in Hawaii. I've been to a cocktail party on the poopdeck of a British destroyer docked in Shanghai. I've taken the bus to Tibet, and tramped through the cloud forests of Panama with biologists. A magazine sent me on a raft trip down the Colorado through the Grand Canyon; another sent me to cooking school for a week. I have spent time with celebrities, presidents and heroin dealers. I love my work. I have a loving, supportive family and more friends than I probably deserve. I have had the space and time to camp, ski, cycle, garden, cook and spoil my pets (an Australian shepherd, a German shepherd and a tabby cat). If it all ended tomorrow, I would have to say that it has been a really, really good ride. When I was in thick of treatment, I was simply fighting for more time. Now, I'm trying to connect the experience of cancer with the rest of my life, with the time that's been won. I hope the cancer never comes back, but if it does, I'll be ready. That's what this blog is about.
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4 Responses to And some more exciting prizes!

  1. Mary Beth Dean says:

    I’m sorry you are going through this; I did this whole BC experience 7 years ago, and reading your blog refreshes the memory of it for me. I would have loved to have been able to read your thoughts as I went through it. Best of luck to you in your treatments, and keep the faith!

    • leftbreast says:

      Mary Beth,
      Thanks so much for reading the blog. I can’t wait to be seven years out!

      • Mary Beth Dean says:

        Well, you have brought me some insight. I read the post about Elizabeth Edwards, and didn’t realize how large her tumor was (although I often wondered) – mine was roughly the same size. I guess I feel super lucky now. I had 6 positive nodes, ER+, and HER2 Positive. I had a mastectomy, dose-dense chemo, 6 weeks of radiation, and then Herceptin off-label, as it wasn’t then approved for my stage. I thank God daily (really) for the smart doctors who treated me in St. Louis. They gave me aggressive treatment, and as a result, I have watched both kids graduate from high school, one of them from college, and the other one enter college. Ironically, my husband is a cancer researcher. He was able to explain everything to me, how it all worked, etc.
        We are blessed to live at a time when so much can be done for BC and other cancers. I look at life quite differently now, and gently remind my husband of that when the need arises!!
        Chemo sounds like it is giving you a rough time . . . but it’s only temporary. You’ll get through it, and it sounds like you have a lot of support. I can’t imagine moving in the middle of all this , though. I admire you, and again thank you for writing this blog – not just for you, but for the rest of us BC people past and present.

      • leftbreast says:

        Mary Beth,
        Thanks for reading the blog, and congratulations on your own success in beating back BC. You’re right, we are lucky to live now, when so much more can be done to fight cancer. I give thanks daily that I don’t live in the days of Halstead radical mastectomies….
        All the best,

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