Now, I don’t watch a lot of TV, so my perceptions may be off a bit, but I’m still a little mad. When someone on a TV show gets breast cancer, they don’t portray it right at all. They don’t show you the decisions that need to be made. They seem to always show you someone going through chemo – which many women with breast cancer don’t do – and they don’t show you surgery – which pretty much all women with breast cancer do. By dramatizing the whole experience they do nothing to prepare you for the reality of it. This makes me rather mad!
Specifically, I remember last year one of the lead characters on Parenthood had breast cancer. She lost her hair, she got sick, she ended up in the hospital at one point because she ignored an infection – but they never dealt with the surgical implications of breast cancer – the dealing with what it means to have a part of your body cut off – and what it means in our society to not have a breasts. So yes, I’m expressing anger again, so perhaps that is the phase I’m beginning to enter in ernest.
I’m also annoyed at our society. The entire concept of reconstruction is so much more emphasized here in the US. I recall one of the women in my PhD class commenting that this was “silicone valley” as in the land of fake boobs (she was mixing up LA and San Fran) – but from a breast cancer perspective, it certainly is the land of fake boobs (although from what I understand many people choose techniques that use their own body fat rather than silicone implants). It is like people will think I am weird if I do not opt for reconstruction – and yet I see all these non-essential surgeries and the extra pains that women go through – and I question it. Why would I want to subject myself to that (yes, there is some irony here, in that I had PRK eye surgery, but there was a defined quality of life benefit for that – I just don’t see that defined quality of life benefit for reconstruction). Many of the women I know going through reconstruction did not have chemo – so they had one less toxic experience with breast cancer – but still.
In some ways, I think dealing with an inside cancer is harder and in other ways it is easier. With a lymphoma, it is much more serious because you cannot simply “cut it out”, but then you also don’t have to deal the surgical implications of cutting off a body part. I also feel for those who have slow growing cancers, who cannot actually feel their tumors. If you don’t have the physical evidence of the cancer, the doubt creeps in – do I really have cancer? Worse is that until treatment, you don’t feel sick – so there is also the perception that it is the treatment that makes you sick. I’m not quite in that case, as I have a large mass in my left breast. There is no mistaking it. It is there. But I do feel it regularly, and I question, “it is getting smaller on its own”, “it is spontaneously curing itself”, “maybe I don’t have to do this chemo thing after all”. I can only imagine how much worse those doubts would be with an invisible cancer that you cannot feel.
Right now, I’m feeling strong. With each passing day the wound associated with the port is healing. I’m hoping for a longer bike ride today – might even try riding one of my upright bikes. I should be able to swim by next week, depending on when the third biopsy occurs. By not have surgery first, I’m loosing some certainty in the cancer – as they cannot fully stage it until it is removed and full pathology is done. I’m finding that the imaging doesn’t provide enough detail – to go from one larger tumor to two smaller ones under MRI which was not seen on ultrasound (although they are double checking on Monday) and mammogram, demonstrates the lack of accuracy in imaging.