The Pink Girls at Bull's fundraiser on Oct. 2 at Bull's Tavern will be donated 100% to breast cancer research. Funds will be donated to the research department of Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital, one of the top research facilities in the United States. Click on the button below to make a donation. Deductions are tax-deductible.
When a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, doctors immediately investigate whether the cancer is hormone-sensitive. They hope so, because hormone-dependent cancer can be fought by quickly shutting off the hormones. This won’t directly treat the cancer; it only lowers hormone levels, which can slow tumor growth.
Doctors recommend (and in my case, beg and insult) female patients to remove their ovaries, to stop the hormones.
The second-best remedy is shutting down the ovaries with drugs. Never mind that the body produces estrogen in other places besides the ovary. Never mind that many women who have their ovaries removed still die from cancer. Never mind that estrogen-deprivation creates new problems. Never mind that when cancer patients reach menopause naturally, their cancer stubbornly continues to grow. LET’S SHUT THOSE OVARIES DOWN.
I’m being sarcastic. I am traumatically stressed about how my ovaries were viewed as evil, when my cancer was diagnosed. I did, briefly, allow my ovaries to be chemically shut down with Lupron, before I had even chosen a doctor.
In my experience, doctors gloss over exactly what happens when Lupron is injected in one’s butt cheek. I imagined an OFF switch on my ovaries. I found out later how Lupron behaves. It heads straight for the brain.
“Lupron … is classified as a leutinizing hormone releasing hormone (LHRH) agonist. HRH agonists work by telling the pituitary gland located in the brain to stop producing leutinizing hormone, which (in men) stimulates the testicles to release testosterone and (in women) stimulates the ovaries to release estrogen. Lupron … does not have a direct effect on the cancer, only on the testicles or ovaries. The resulting lack of testosterone (in men) and estrogen (in women) interferes with stimulating cell growth in testosterone or estrogen dependent cancer cells.” (http://chemocare.com/chemotherapy/drug-info/Lupron-Depot.aspx)
“Telling the pituitary gland” is still a bit of a sugar coat. The drug scrambles the signals the pituitary gland sends to sex organs. The gland controls many bodily functions. That’s why patients on Lupron experience hot flashes. Ineffective body temperature control is collateral damage. And when Lupron treatment is withdrawn, the ovaries try to self-correct, releasing lots more eggs than usual, of importance to aspiring conceivers. Hence, Lupron is also used as a fertility drug.
I don’t hate Lupron and I understand its necessity in cancer treatment. But I regret the suffering it causes and I yearn for the day when treating cancer will not require such heavy hands on a patient.
This morning at a doctor’s office, I heard a receptionist tell a patient that his Medicare wouldn’t cover his Lupron injection. She explained that he had to pay 20% of the bill, and his share was more than $100. I could tell he didn’t have a hundred dollars, because there was silence after the receptionist said that pre-payment was required. She clicked her tongue to counter the dreadful silence that filled the room. She reminded him that he had paid before the previous visit. He then produced another insurance card, but it was for prescriptions, not doctor visits. I can understand the logic.
I didn’t have money to help the man pay his bill, which most certainly was for treatment for prostate cancer. I doubt he would have been comforted by any of my words, especially if I told him that I think prostate cancer is more overtreated than breast cancer.
I left silently, helplessly, before the matter was resolved. I couldn’t stop thinking about the man. I knew nothing about him, not even his face, because his back was to me.
And yet, I KNEW him, in a way that only people undergoing cancer treatment know each other.
The gratitude we feel to be alive can fade to black when dollars we don’t have are standing between us and the horrible drugs that we pray will keep us alive.
I don’t have a grand ending to this story. But it’s not a sad ending, either. I was reminded that there are people who need help, even when I’m doing OK. Even though I couldn’t help the man who crossed my path today, in doing so, he helped me.
A Closer Look of the Triad helps breast cancer patients in the Winston-Salem/Greensboro/High Point (N.C.) area. We are patients helping patients. We deliver “swag bags” to patients at their homes or at local hospitals. These bags cost nothing to the recipient. They are filled with comfort and beauty items such as gentle moisturizers, lip balm, comfy socks, and lipstick. We also mentor women who are coping with a new diagnosis. Choosing an oncologist, researching treatment, filing disability claims — these tasks can be overwhelming. We do our best to make women feel strong and confident about themselves and their decisions. You can see the women we help on our Facebook page. We are a designated 501(c)3 nonprofit charity, so contributions can used as tax deductions on your yearly tax returns, and isn’t that a nice pat on the back. You do not need to have a PayPal account to make a donation through PayPal. Thank you for your generosity.
If there was a “Best Sister” contest, my sister Teresa would win.
Here’s how I know.
- She’s been a nurse her entire life. Besides teaching, few careers come close in required commitment. The best teachers love their students, but nurses love sick and dying patients.
- She loves everything. Not just sick and dying humans, but animals and plants. Her pets are all rescues, and without her and her husband to love those kooks, I doubt they would be alive.
- She has taken care of me during some of the lowest/sickest periods of my life. Paying my doctor bill when I had bronchitis but not health insurance? Check. Driving my car with me in it when I moved halfway across the country? Yep. Sending at least three birthday cards and a generous check to my son every year? Always. And to hear her tell it, I’m the amazing sister.
Teresa is my older sister. (I have a fantastic younger sister, too.) Teresa doesn’t have a reality-TV show or a YouTube channel. Her greatness can be measured not only by the number of patients she has nursed, or clinical evaluations she has written, but also by the hands she has held and smiles she has coaxed, actions that are rarely counted as important in today’s world. As my way of introducing her to readers, on her birthday, I am sharing a short speech she wrote, more than 10 years ago. I re-read it from time to time, to remind myself of how blessed I am to have her as my sister.
My name is Teresa … and I am proud to be a nurse.
I always knew I would be a nurse.
From the time I was 4 years old. When I was asked what I wanted to be … the answer
was ALWAYS the same …
“I am going to be a nurse.”
When family members would try and compel me to consider another career …
one with more prestige … more money … maybe a doctor?
I always said …
I am going to be a nurse.
I did …
Become a nurse.
Nursing had afforded me experiences that have shaped who I have become.
I have learned that I am not the only person in the world.
I have learned that no matter what is going on in my life … someone else has bigger issues
than I do.
I have learned to use all of my senses.
I have learned to trust my gut, my heart and my intuition.
I have learned the power of not only hearing, but also of listening to what is being said …
both verbally and nonverbally.
I have learned that sometimes saying nothing is the best thing to do.
I have learned that I do not have all the answers.
I have learned that illnesses bring out the best and worst of my patients.
I have learned that illnesses bring out the best and worst of my patients’ families and
I have learned that crying is an acceptable way of caring for my patients.
Experiences I have had over the past 22 years:
I have held a woman up while she strains to push her child into the world.
I have held up her newborn baby so she can see that he is perfect.
I have given a newborn his first bath.
I have cared for a toddler who does not understand why people are sticking needles into
I have comforted the parents of the toddler who do not understand why people are
sticking needles into their toddler.
I have cared for a child who will not go home and have seen the pain in the parents’ eyes
when they realize the same.
I have cared for a teenager who was undergoing chemotherapy while missing her senior
I have seen the fear in the eyes of a young husband as he tells his wife she will be OK as
she is wheeled to the OR. … And then seen the joy in those same eyes as she is returned to
her room. … and to him … OK.
I have helped a man make the decision to stop fighting a terminal illness and go on
Hospice … and held that same man’s hand as he took his last breath on his journey from
this world to the next.
I have seen families struggle to deal with the loss of a loved one … and bravely make the
decision to donate organs so something good will come of their loss.
I have seen a flaccid, diseased heart taken from the chest of a man who would die without
I have seen a healthy heart sewn in that same chest … and the patient going
home … healthy … and very thankful for a second chance.
I have coordinated the evaluation of a patient facing dialysis if he did not get a kidney
transplant … and then the evaluation of his living kidney donor … his wife … and the
miracle of the donation and transplant happening on Valentine’s Day.
There is not another profession in this world that affords one the diversity of experiences
that nursing does.
Nursing is not for wimps.
Nursing is not for the faint of heart.
Nursing is not for glory seekers.
If you have drive, self-confidence and a caring heart … you may have what it takes.
I can say with great certainty that in my career:
I have been tired, but never bored.
I have been frustrated, but never beat.
I have been challenged, but never scared.
And … I have never regretted saying …
I am going to be a nurse.
My first week with the Purple Carrot, the vegan food-delivery system that supplies 3 meals a week for 2 people, has been ok. My husband traveled over the weekend and I prepared one meal by myself. It’s definitely more fun to be in the kitchen together.
One meal was Spanish-derived, another was Middle Eastern, and another Asian. I tired of mincing garlic and chopping onions. The recipe instructions didn’t seem paced right. For instance, while cooking a skillet full of chopped vegetables on medium high, the instructions were to make the hot mustard sauce, which would have been simpler to make before cooking began. And despite being a virgin vegetarian, I’ve had plenty of tofu and seitan. I just don’t like the taste. Silken tofu is pretty tasteless, and yet the recipe didn’t call for it to be marinated in the cheerful stew, just plopped on top and browned, and even under a broiler for 10 minutes, not much browning happened
On the positive side, the price was more than fair, we live in a city with mostly horrible chain restaurants, so this food was like manna. I can’t say I loved all the recipes, but I liked them, and they pleasantly filled my belly, and we probably could have invited a third person to eat with us, there was so much.
I’ll keep trying. I vowed to stay vegetarian only until I wanted to eat meat. So far, I haven’t had any desire. Purple Carrot gets an A for effort, in keeping me happily vegetarian
I have two friends with breast cancer who received terrible news last week. These beautiful ladies have endured surgeries, medication with sickening side effects, radiation, chemotherapy, hours-long wait for medical appointments, rude nurses, and complacent doctors. Last week, my friends received news that there’s more of that to come. The cancer has gotten worse. Yesterday, another friend received the fantastic news that her cancer is responding well to treatment.
This is what breast cancer is, peaks and valleys, highs and lows. It’s not just ringing the bell when you’ve finished chemo, or looking great with your new hairdo, although I have cherished those moments as I witness them.
The peaks and valleys are part of my own life, too.
Every 3 months, most Stage IV breast cancer patients in active treatment get body scans to see if the treatment is working. Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t. My next scan is Nov. 2.
I hurt to think of my friends who are not responding well to treatment. I know they have done everything possible to beat cancer. And it wasn’t enough. This doesn’t mean the end, it just means, they must try something new.
That’s why I started A Closer Look, my charity that delivers gift bags to breast cancer patients.
I can’t cure cancer, but I can make the life of a patient a little more cheerful.
Yesterday, I delivered a swag bag to a woman who was a very happy recipient. It brought us both joy. I am loving these joyful moments; I feel useful. I will need to be useful during the valleys. As my ministry progresses, I will visit women who are close to death. I may need to help families prepare.
It won’t be easy but I know, we all know, that one day, for all of us, it will be the end, that there are no more treatments that can help.
We do what we can do.
I’m writing my latest Caring Bridge update on my personal website, ControlFreakPublicRelations, because Caring Bridge doesn’t handle full-size photos and YOU HAVE GOT TO SEE THIS. So if you clicked on a link to get here, thanks. I am trying to show you my written PET scan report, not steal your credit card numbers or hack into your Ashley Madison account.
Isn’t technology great? I can sit in bed and use a hand-held computer and share the results of my Sloan Kettering medical test with people who live anywhere in the world.
So, take a glance. Seriously, don’t try and read it. This is just the last page, anyway.
Huh? Thoracic inlet? Adnexal cyst?
Here’s all you need to know, and here’s why I didn’t include the entire report, which would just make you squint and make a lemon-face, with all that jargon.
Stable. Stable. Stable. Stable.
Yes!!! Praise God.
“Stable” means my cancer isn’t growing. In some places in my bones, the lesions are actually smaller.
The reason this news is especially awesome is because it was so unexpected.
I started a new cancer treatment several months ago, called Afinitor. It doesn’t help every patient. My doctor believed it could help me. I was unable to tolerate the usual 20 mg dose, or a half-dose, or even 7.5 mg. At the time of the scan, I was taking 2.5 mg every other day, the only level I could take without constant stomach pains, skin rash or depression. And the results are great!
I’m feeling so relieved and joyful right now.
My next hurdle is getting my pain under control. I’m experiencing some withdrawal symptoms, and pain during activities. But none of this lessens the joy I feel, particularly in sharing this news with you. Thank you for caring about me.
Heading home to Buffalo, NY for the marathon over Memorial Day is an annual delight. The weather is always perfect, the trees are green, and the city has a winter-is-finally-over-buzz that instantly doses me a contact high. It also arrives at an opportune time for relief when the heat is ramping up in Tucson to the triple digits. “It’s not bad, it’s a dry heat,” they tell me. Yeah, well so is an oven.
It’s a quick trip. I arrive at my folk’s house at midnight on Saturday. I’m up at 5:30am the following morning sipping coffee and going over my strategy for the marathon that begins at 7. The last marathon I ran was Boston a couple years ago. I ran a PR (personal record) in 2:47. An hour or so after I finished, the thrill of my fastest marathon to date became trivial and insignificant as the horrific…
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