What the Media Doesn’t Tell Us About Breast Cancer


Over the past 2 decades, the media
has painted a picture of the ideal breast cancer survivor. We see a smiling white middle aged woman telling the world how she beat breast cancer with her positive attitude and her unwillingness to ever give up the fight. She doesn’t just stop with the lessons of how she beat breast cancer. She continues her story with how having conquered cancer, her whole life has changed for the better. To her, cancer was the greatest gift she ever received from the benevolent universe.

We sometimes hear that her reconstructed breasts look better than
they did pre-cancer. How lucky she was to have gotten a free boob job! The hair loss was a bit of a drag but it grew back better than before. She speaks of how breast cancer has brought her closer to  her friends and family.  Breast cancer was a tiny blip in her life, no more annoying or life threatening than a root canal. Breast cancer has been described as the “good” cancer to get as everyone wears pink, races around a lot, and nobody ever dies.

I have no doubt that this does represent reality for some breast cancer survivors. It is also possible that some of these smiling women have repressed the worst aspects of their breast cancer experience and are choosing to only publicize the positive things that happened along the way. They present their stories through a gauzy pink veil that filters out the bad memories leaving only the good. We don’t see pictures of the very young or the pregnant or the Stage 4 breast cancer patients. We don’t see many pictures of women as they are trudging through treatment, pale and bald.  We don’t hear about the single mothers who go through treatment with little family support. We don’t see the black faces or the Asian, or the Hispanic ones. The media has painted a simplified and unrealistic picture that doesn’t accurately reflect the many faces or feelings of breast cancer.

The problems with this stereotype are many and they are troubling. Most survivors I”ve met in person or online do not relate to breast cancer being the greatest experience of their life. They remember the fear they felt when first diagnosed. Until they had the tumour removed and all the tests done, they didn’t know if the cancer had spread and if they were already dying. They remember the pain of their treatment, whether it was surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or some combination of all  three. They may have received a lot of emotional and practical support during the diagnostic and the early treatment phases of their cancer only to find people slipping away the more time passes.
 
        
If they had reconstruction on one or both breasts, there may have been multiple painful surgeries involved with tissue expanders, implants, or the removal of another body part (skin and muscle from the stomach, back, or buttocks) to create the new breast(s). The end result of this surgery may still leave them with body image issues with the reconstructed breast not matching the natural one, the implant becoming hard and encapsulated with scar tissue, or even the body rejecting the transplanted body part and the person being left with no breast(s) at all, either temporarily or permanently. And what is never mentioned is that even if the reconstructed breasts look cosmetically wonderful, almost all feeling and sensation is gone. Forever.

Women are often fearful of the cancer recurring again or it spreading and metastisizing to their bones, lungs, liver, or brain. They may fear leaving young children behind should their cancer spread and they die.  They may find their shaky marriages dissolving from the extra weight of a cancer diagnosis. They will soon learn who their true friends are and will watch others in their life simply disappear as news of their breast cancer becomes known.

About 10% of breast cancer patients will learn that they are already Stage 4 at the time of the initial diagnosis. Another 30% will reach this stage eventually even if their initial cancers were caught at an early stage. There is no Stage 5. Stage 4 means the cancer has already spread elsewhere in the body. It can only be treated, not cured. Stage 4 is the only kind of cancer that kills although medical advances have allowed women to live longer with Stage 4 cancer than ever before. But for these women, chemotherapy and other treatments may go on for the rest of their lives, to keep the cancer from spreading even further.  They will never “beat cancer”. Their stories aren’t popular in the media.

Other women like myself will have cancer recurrences or grow new primary breast cancers in the same or the other breast. We do not die from local recurrences but the fear is even greater the second (or third or fourth time around). We know we are pushing our luck on the cancer wheel of fortune. How often can we keep catching recurrences in time before they spread into distant body parts? You don’t see many women in commercials saying I thought I beat cancer once but then it came back and I am in treatment again. This doesn’t fit with the storyline that if it is caught early and you survive 5 years, you have beaten cancer.

Stage 1 – 3 patients may be strong and full of fighting spirit while going through treatment but then fall apart when treatment ends. This is a fairly common occurrence as it feels that
your medical safety net is gone without the constant monitoring of your health by medical professionals. While active treatment can be very tough, there is still something reassuring about being seen by a medical team on a regular basis. Also, cancer treatment is like a full-time job with numerous appointments to see oncologists, plastic surgeons, and lab technicians. It is easy to set milestones and goals – 1 chemo down, 5 more to go. Treatment gives structure to your days and a final goal to keep working towards – the end of treatment. When that abruptly comes to an end, many survivors are left wondering, “what happens now?”

Friends and family may not be as supportive now that treatment is over. They feel that the worst is over now that you have completed surgery , chemotherapy, and/or radiation. They move on to other people and things, leaving you alone at a time when you might need their emotional support the most.                      

You may feel pushed and rushed by others to immediately resume your pre-cancer life once treatment ends and to put all that negative cancer stuff behind you. You may question yourself as to why you aren’t bouncing back from treatment more quickly like your friends, family, and the pink media ladies say you should. Your doctors may tell you to find your “new normal” before you even have had time to reflect on the very abnormal process that you have just experienced. 

Once you have had cancer, every follow- up oncologist appointment and every new scan, mammogram, or blood test brings anxiety levels up sky high again. Every new headache could be a brain tumour and every new ache and pain could be a sign that the cancer has spread to your bones.

You may wonder to yourself what you are doing wrong – why you didn’t find your pot of gold at the end of the pink rainbow.   

It does a disservice to those newly diagnosed and those just starting their cancer treatment process to portray breast cancer survivors as a uniformly brave, strong, courageous, and positive group of women. We survivors are all those things and more. But we are also scared, anxious, in pain, confused, disoriented, and angry at times. And that is normal. And that is okay.

Doctors have known for decades that a cancer diagnosis is an extremely stressful event and freely hand out anti-anxiety medication throughout the treatment process. They have heard their chemotherapy patients complain for years about “chemo brain” where forgetfulness and short term memory loss are common features that linger on after chemotherapy ends. They know many women suffer from the shock of a completely altered body with their breasts removed by mastectomy, their hair lost to chemotherapy, and their reproductive systems pushed into early menopause, either temporarily or permanently, by chemotherapy. New American studies have shown that approximately 25% of breast cancer patients will suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder sometime between diagnosis and the end of treatment. European studies have placed that number at closer to 50% of patients.

Many of these newly diagnosed women are in their 20’s and 30’s, just starting careers or families. Many received their breast cancer diagnosis while pregnant or while still breast feeding shortly after giving birth. Others are encouraged to undergo fertility treatment before starting chemotherapy so that their eggs can be frozen in the event that premature ovarian failure or permanent menopause prevents a future pregnancy.

More women each year are being tested for genetic defects that can hugely increase their risk of breast and ovarian cancers. If they test positive for a mutation, they will be strongly encouraged to have a double mastectomy and to have their ovaries and fallopian tubes removed by age 35. If they test positive for a mutation, this becomes a family affair with the whole immediate and extended family having to decide if they too should be tested to see if they also have the same genetic mutation. If a woman already has children, she will learn that each of her children, male and female, have a 50% chance of also inheriting this mutated gene. As genetic testing is not carried out on children, she will have to wait until they turn 18 and decide whether to get tested to see if she has passed her mutated gene onto her children.

It can be encouraging to read stories of women who have survived for many years after a cancer diagnosis without a recurrence or without the cancer spreading. All the memes on the internet urging you “to fight like a girl” or “to beat cancer’s ass” or even the more blunt and to the point, “Fuck cancer”, can be very empowering for both the woman undergoing treatment and the long term survivor. But I know for myself that it is difficult to stay in fighter mode 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. Again, speaking only for myself, I can’t live on a constant diet of positivity messages when I read or talk about cancer. It is like living on a high sugar diet. After awhile, the sugar buzz fades and I come crashing down. Hard.

Cancer has definitely changed my life, not always for the better. I need to read about the struggles of the newly diagnosed, the stories of women going through treatment, and especially the stories of the women with Stage 4 cancer. I need the grit of painful reality so I don’t forget where I came from and what I went through. I need these stories so I don’t sugar coat my story for the next person struggling with some of breast cancer’s less positive realities, thinking to myself that cancer or treatment or facing multiple new primaries wasn’t all that bad. It was that bad and some days still is. What is your cancer story? Do you prefer only to read positive stories or can you make room for some less positive ones as well?

Sharon Greene November 23, 2014

Posted from WordPress for Android

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54 thoughts on “What the Media Doesn’t Tell Us About Breast Cancer

  1. Wonderfully written article with so many unfortunate truths behind it all! Thank you for sharing. I am a 3x survivor and BRCA2 carrier. In addition I am the co-founder of a nonprofit organization for Male Breast Cancer. Please visit our web site HIS Breast Cancer Awareness to learn more about men with breast cancer as well as their risk with the BRCA genetic mutation. This gene is passed on to daughters and sons from mother’s and father’s. My brother is also a survivor of breast cancer (and prostate) and is also BRCA2 carrier. Learn more at http://www.hisbreastcancer.org
    We’ll look to follow more of your blogs ! You can follow us on fb and twitter as well.
    Best of Health to you all,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reminding me and other readers that men get breast cancer too, particularly if they have inherited a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation. I am sorry you and your brother were both struck by breast cancer and that your brother had prostrate cancer as well, another cancer that is more prevalent in men with a BRCA mutstion. I eill definitely check out your blog, your facebook page, and follow you on Twitter. Thank you so much for reading and commenting on this post.

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      1. I have shared the information page from your website on Facebook. You have a very informative well designed web site that is very user friendly. Thank you so much for bringing this material to my attention!

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    2. Thank you for the article, makes me feel more “normal” with my recent depression episode (despite anti-depressants). I am theoretically “out of treatment” for “mean” multifocal LBC I discovered a year ago, post chemo, mastectomy and radiation, and now waiting to have my ovaries removed “thanks” to discovered BRCA1 mutation – and I am totally lost.
      At the beginning I view the cancer as a “message” to change my life – and now, a year later, nothing has changed, and life feels more shitty than ever – and it does give me a sort of a failure feeling… Not even thinking about future C possibilities yet, just fighting to survive the greys of NOW…
      So thank you to bring me back to the “middle”, from running between depression and exctasy that “the treatment is over”. And good luck to you too!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That is part of the problem I see with the media’s profiling of the happy happy happy survivors who think cancer is a gift from Above and paying little attention to those of us with depression, anxiety, and P TSD. Watching the pink happy suvivors makes us feel that is the norm and the rest of us are doing something wrong to be feeling this way. I have run the gamut of reactions from anxiety and depression to untreated PTSD. Once I joined some Facebook support groups and started blogging, I soon found I was not alone and there are many others who feel like I do. If your anti-depressants are still leaving you depressed, you may need an increase in dosage or a different type of antidepessants. I really find the Facebook online groups very helpful in normalizing my experience. If you haven’t joined one yet, there are several good ones like Beyond the Pink Moon that will provide information and support. What you are going through is very normal.

        Please write back to update us on how you are doing. Thank you so much for sharing part of your story hefe!

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  2. What the media doesn’t tell you is that these very same ” heroic” drug companies coming up with ” THE CURE”
    are THE VERY SAME ONES who gave us this disease to begin with…Google “DES EXPOSURE” to see how millions of mothers between 1938 to 1971 were given this drug with NO clinical trials…we are now paying the price…the drug companies don’t want you to remember; a few of us won’t let them forget!

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    1. I don’t know that big pharma companies are commonly thought of as heroic. We all realize their bottom line is making profits. I’m sorry if you were a DES baby and suffered healthwise because of prenatal exposure. I can’t blame my cancer on any pregnancy drugs as my mother didn’t take any. She did however carry a mutation in her BRCA1 gene which I inherited. She fought 4 different primary cancers in 12 years – breast, ovarian, and 2 different types of colon cancer. I have also had 4 primaries in a 23 year period but they were all triple negative breast cancer. We can’t trace which grandparent passed the gene to my mother and her sister as they fled Russia in the 1920’s and didn’t keep contact with those left behind.

      Thanks for reading this post and for sharing your comments on this blog.

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  3. Sharon, this is the last option I have. It’s inoperable, and if the treatment doesn’t work, that’s it. They are only prolonging my life the best they can. But, it’s not in my hands, my life is in God’s hands. I just pray that my children are as accepting of my fate as I am! The cancer has reached the bone now, so it’s only a matter of time.

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  4. I thought your post was brilliant. You expressed some of my thoughts that I’ve never articulated, or thought that no person could really understand unless they’ve experienced cancer. I didn’t have breast cancer but I was diagnosed with Leukemia in 1992. Obviously I’m here and survived. I had a bone marrow transplant from an unrelated donor. Back then this diagnosis was a death sentence. The only chance for survival was a bone marrow transplant. Survival rates were low. I was a young mother, two kids, nine and eleven. My husband left our marriage while I was in Houston for six months for the transplant. I didn’t recover beautifully although I beat the odds. Survors of cancer would claim that they would not have traded their cancer experience for all that had come to them spiritually. That it was really a gift. I could never agree. I would have done anything to have spared my children the fear and pain they experienced. I was devastated when my husband told me he was tired of having a sick wife and wanted to have fun. I really was lucky though. I got what I wanted most and that was to see my children grow up. That’s all I cared about and it gave me the will to survive

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    1. Most real life cancer survivor stories are messy and painful and heart wrenching. I am so happy you beat the odds and are alive to see your children grow up. Your husband leaving in the midst of your treatment is appalling but it does seem to happen more frequently than you might expect. You got the kids and that is what truly matters in life.

      Thank you so much for sharing your story here. It is one that definitely needs to be told.

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  5. When I was 36, a pap smear came back abnormal, after more testing and multiple biopsies of my cervix, I was told the cells were definitely pre-cancerous. I begged for and was given a complete hysterectomy (except they left 1 ovary.) 23 yrs. later, I was diagnosed with “non-aggressive” breast cancer and begged for a bi-lateral mastectomy. I have passed my 1 year anniversary and pretty much don’t think about having had breast cancer. I mean, it’s evident every time I see my ugly chest, but, it doesn’t consume my life.

    The other day, however, I heard two doctors talking about the importance of reaching that “five year” mark after having been treated for breast cancer. My fears began anew with giving that five year anniversary more importance than I originally thought.

    My primary doctor had told me that everyone has cancer cells in their bodies, that I still have cancer cells in my body too and that I have more of a chance, now that I’ve had breast cancer, for those dormant cancer cells to become activated. My husband was FURIOUS at our doctor, but, he told the truth.

    I wake up each morning thinking of what I’m going to do that day, not about whether or not I’ve got a new cancer. I choose to invest in living rather than fearing.

    Thanks for this wonderful post and giving us an opportunity to share. {{{HUGS}}}

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    1. You really can’t live in fear all the time or you might as well not be living at all. I think it is important to acknowledge your emotions, good, bad, or indifferent and then go from there. No one else can tell you how you should be feeling, especially when it comes to cancer. Thank you for sharing your story in such a thoughtful comment.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. This is an honest blog. After living with cancer for 26 years and being treated for it 4 times, I’ve experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’ve been through this too many times and talked to so many others about their experiences that I want to paint an accurate picture of what breast cancer is truly like.

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  6. Sharon, Thank you for sharing your thoughts, your words have spoken how I feel exactly. Although relatively early on in my treatment, I have had Bi-Lateral surgery and begin Radiotherapy on 10 December, I have found some of the articles on the Breast Cancer web pages rather patronising and feel that they don’t tell the full story. Bless you, Dee x

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    1. Thank you Dee for your kind comments. I am sorry to hear that you are battling breast cancer. I am hoping you have a support network of family and friends. I have found much support from online breast cancer groups on Facebook as everyone there knows what you are going through. I wish you all the best while going through radiation. Do you have to do chemo too?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Sharon, I am a real novice at WordPress, I have only just found your message. Thank you for your advice, I will look for Facebook groups, I hadn’t thought about looking there. No I didn’t have Chemo, I’m not sure if this is a good or bad thing as having it might have reduced worries of reoccurrence. Xx

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  7. Firstly, I’m really sorry to hear about your struggle. Your post is very thought-provoking, like everything else in life there is always this Hollywood image of how things should be and in reality life doesn’t match up. I don’t think it’s healthy or realistic to always be positive and pretend everything is fine when it’s not.

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    1. No, if my life was a movie, the actress would still be glowing through chemotherapy (instead of puking), a heart throb actor would fall in love with her on sight, and she’d start a foundation that found the cure for cancer and she would win the Nobel Prize. All of this neatly wrapped up in 2 hours. If only real life was like the movies….

      I agree with you that no many of us can stay happy and upbeat through everything life throws at us. Sometimes it is healthy to think that this part of my life sucks if that is what you are experiencing.
      I appreciate you stopping by to comment on this post and hope to see you again.

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  8. Thank you so much for your heartfelt post. I learned I was Stage IV just as my 5 year survival date approached after Stage II cancer. My first year post lumpectomy was a nightmare, having contracted MRSA during cancer treatment. I don’t hear many voices of women who contract infectious diseases during treatment but I believe there are many. I experienced two failed reconstructions before I could give up that notion. I appreciate your including PTSD as more common in the aftermath of treatment. At one time I believed I must be paticularly unlucky as every step of my experience was messy and complicated and was not reflected in our glossy pink image of survival. We are the new face of survival and it takes courage to meet each day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It sounds as though you have had a rough go of things right from the outset. Cancer for many, if not most of us, can be messy, painful, and anything but pink and shiny.

      Thank you for having the courage to keep facing day after day while battling Stage 4 cancer. I really appreciated reading your comments.

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    2. I also had cellulitis/staphyllococcus infection in the post-mastectomy scar – shortly after I started radiation, also was in a shock as noone ever mentioned this as a possible side-effect. I found out it happens quite often, awareness would really help – for a week I and my primary care doctor thought it was radation side-effect.
      Sorry to hear about your stage IV, keeping my fingers crossed that the bastard is kept at bay…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You have really had a rough go of things. It is no wonder you feel depessed. I am glad that you are seeking professional help for your depression. Let your dr. know if the meds aren’t working and canvas with them the possibility that you may be suffering from PTSD. Thank you once again for sharing a very difficult part of your life with us today.

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  9. Your beautiful voice is a blessing to this topic Sharon. I think the most we can ask of ourselves or anyone else is that we’re true to ourselves – our stories, our experiences, our journeys. There’s room for all expressions.

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  10. My cancer has metastasized to my lungs. I am 38 and I am pissed. This should not be my life. I was able to see my daughter graduate high school but I don’t know that I will see my son greaduate HS and that posse me off even more. I hate feeling weak and wore out all the time. I don’t even want to think of what my life is going to be like I to he future because all I can see is feeling like crap most of the time and putting on a happy face so my family doesn’t have to worry all that much.

    Thank you for your article.

    Lisa Dyer
    Silver Lake a WV

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    1. I am so sorry that you are dealing with Stage 4 cancer at such a young age. You have every reason to be mad as hell for what cancer has brought into your life. I hope your oncologists can come up with the right chemical cocktail to give you both a good quality and a good quantity of life. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

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  11. I read your post in a hurry a few days ago, because I find that everything you write makes me say, “yes, that is it exactly!”. I just wanted to let you know how well I think you articulated all it is that goes through my mind and likely many other people’s minds as well. Do you mind if I share a link to your blog in one of my posts in the future?

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  12. I enjoyed your article very much. You are very articulate and expressed many things that need to be said. Although I am triple negative , I was just retested for genetic information and found I was negative for everything. So my three daughters and 5 granddaughters will not worry now.I was diagnosed almost 20 years ago and one thing I really looked for at the time was books written by survivors…young, old,stage1, stage 4,married, single, etc. Every story was valuable to me and gave me insight into how others coped with this disease. So , my Point is that I am noticing from your responses that it seems women are not reading books anymore, but receiving all their information over the internet. On the one hand it is a wonderful resource but there is nothing like a book to get a complete story. You mentioned books but it just seemed to me that no one was reading them. Thanks for your excellent article .

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    1. My first 2 cancers were 1988 and 1993. As it was the pre-internet age, all my information on breast cancer came from books. Memoirs were my favorite. I still love reading these kinds of books and my bookshelf and now my Kindle are full of them. I would encourage anyone with breast cancer in their life to seek these books out online or in bookstores.

      Congratulations on.being a 20 year triple negative breast cancer survivor! I am happy to hear you tested negative for the BRCA mutations and don’t have to worry about your children later getting cancer because of these genes.

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  13. There’s a more fundamental issue contributing to some of the emotional difficulties people go through. We are all bombarded with images of women with “perfect” boobs and “perfect” hair so that we feel deficient if we don’t have them. Women are afraid to go out with bald heads, hiding under wigs as if there is something shameful about being sick.

    Personally, I find the idea of breast reconstruction barbaric.

    Mind you, I don’t condemn any woman who is willing to go through that agonizing process, but I also encourage women to not do it mindlessly, and simply because everyone expects them to.

    I am stage IV, by the way.

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    1. We certainly do live in a society that puts a high premium on breasts, luscious hair, thin bodies, and beauty that only exists through photoshopped images. We are exposed to these media images from a very young age with the result that we never feel good enough about our natural bodies. Add a mastectomy or 2 into the mix, and many of us really feel that our bodies are now so far from the mainstream that reconstruction surgery seems like a necessity and not a luxory. Many cancer survivors choose not to reconstruct. Some wear a prosthesis under their clothing. Others choose to wear nothing and be flat and fabulous. With my first mastectomy at 34, I went the “immediate” reconstruction route which involved a tissue expander that had to keep being refilled until it reached a certain level and permanent implants could be put into place. My body rebelled and would not heal properly with the refills. They were stopped and I spent a year walking around with one normal breast and one that was completely flat. I received so many comments from strangers about my lopsided breasts that I wanted desperately to finish the reconstruction to get out of the spotlight and just fit in again.

      You make some excellent points in your post. Thank you for commenting.

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  14. Hey there, I found you via the NaBloPoMo blogroll.

    I lost a very good friend to breast cancer in 2013. She hated that people knew she was fighting this fight and would have much preferred that she could have kept it entirely to herself, but the hair loss was a give away. I deeply miss her. I carry her with me and I can still hear her voice – we worked in a call centre together. 🙂

    As part of NaBloPoMo I try to comment on as many participating blogs as I can, and I am also adding participating blogs to my feed reader. So I’m just dropping by to let you know I’ve added your blog to my feedreader, whenever you publish a post I will see it. 🙂

    I have created three bundles on Inoreader so that bloggers can easily visit other participating NaBloPoMo bloggers which you can find here –

    http://www.snoskred.org/2014/11/nablopomo-bundles-final-edition.html

    Your blog is in the second bundle.. I also have a link up going at my place so my readers can find participating blogs which you are more than welcome to add your blog link to.

    Looking forward to seeing your posts. You may see me drop by again during November, but it might be December before I finish my first drop by to blogs if I don’t get faster at leaving comments. 🙂

    Happy NaBloPoMo to you!
    Snoskred
    http://www.snoskred.org

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    1. Thank you for adding me to your blog roll! I will visit your site to see what you have been writing about and will add my blog link to your site. I am sorry that you lost your friend to breast cancer. It seems to touch the lives of so many people and ripples out to all those that loved them. Thanks for visiting my blog today.

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  15. At the age of 36 with two boys under the age of 7, I was diagnosed with aggressive stage II breast cancer. Did the chemo and radiation, dragging my preschooler with me when necessary. It was a grueling period of my life, time I felt that I and my family lost forever. That was 25 years ago, but just as I thought I was through with breast cancer I tested positive for the BRCA1 mutation. Six days ago I underwent a prophylactic mastectomy and reconstruction. Tonight I got the call from the surgeon saying that the pathology report was cancer free. Great news, but am I really through with breast cancer? Not really. My 31 year old son recently told me how scared he was that he might lose his mom 25 years ago. For the rest of my life my breasts will be somewhat “foreign” to me and lacking in natural sensation.
    I have to agree with all you’ve so eloquently expressed above. Thanks for putting it “out there”.

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    1. Yes, we lose those years where we are having treatment and it is so much worse when children are involved. During my last chemo, my kids were 9 and 11. My 9 year old daughter in particular became more clingy and would seem to fake sickness whenever I had a doctor appointment or a chemo session so I would have to take her along. My son was very disturbed by my hair loss and hated it when I wasn’t wearing a wig (scarves and hats bothered him) as I “looked like a cancer patient”. I think that was his code for me looking very sick/ like I wouldn’t make it. I’m sorry you found out you are BRCA1 positive. I am too. Is your son going to get tested or is it still too soon for him to make that decision?

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      1. I am working on getting both sons tested. One is married and they live far from me (CA and NY) so it’s harder to encourage them to action. Of my siblings, only one has been tested and she was negative, thank God, as she has five granddaughters. I’ve encouraged my brothers and mother to test as well.

        I was surprised to test positive since there is very little family history of breast or ovarian cancer.

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      2. I came from a small family so we didn’t know we were cancer prone till my Mom got breast cancer in 1980 and her sister died of untreated cancer (s) of some sort in 1984. She had become a recluse and no one even knew she was sick till shortly before she died.

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  16. Thank you for writing this. Is so beautiful and so, very true.
    It is very hard for me to express my pain, so while reading I asked myself if I felt represented by the descrption you made ( and asking yourself questions is what allows us to grow, so again… thank you for your post!) I do not feel I am that woman but I have had to deal with the “pink ribbon effect”…
    So many people told me ” at least you got new boobs ” and that made so angry, so frustrated, I wanted to punch them in the face! my former breast was small but it was mine and somehow it was me, it was delicate,it was true, and I loved it, and it was taken away from me with no time to think about it. The breast that had the mastectomy doesn’t feel like it belong to my body anymore, it’s like a piece of marble hanging there. and it’s okay, cause it has to be. I have a life to live, but I definetly do not feel happy I have a firmer breast ( it’s not bigger, cause I was too worried about my life to think about asking for bigger boobs,). Every time I say something about the imminent loss of my (truly beloved) hair there is someone ready to remind me that they will grow back and that is not what matters now- oh and the wigs, isn’t it funny to get to have different hair every day? -how can someone actually say that outloud?! (BTW they will grow back to where they are now in 5 years, not overnight. again, it is ok because it has to be)… and I can not stop thinking about how first my breast was take away, after my hormones – I have been on tamoxifen 1.5 year – now my hair… what do I still have to give? well… I don’t have childrens -yet- and I hope chemo will leave me enough eggs to have kids naturally … everytime I say that there is someone ready to tell me that it won’t be a problem, well… how do you know? did God called you and informed you? because, I am not even thirty and I am dealing with cancer for the second time in less than two years so… shit happens. I had so many hot flashes from the tamoxifen and there were so many people laughing at me while I was opening windows like crazy and just feeling without breath, I never found it funny. I just had an axillary dissetion and I wanted to start a school to become a yoga teacher and there is always someone ready to remino me that I can still do that, (but when ?) usually those are the same that freak out in the traffic or if their manicure gets ruined. when I was put on chemical menopause I hated it so much and I felt so guilty for it, I felt guilty for all the other women that had breast cancer – and generally anyone who ever had cancer- and was dealing with it “better” than me, for all of those who had worst treatments, I felt ashamed.
    I am getting better with people this time just forcing them to notice how I really feel and then I balance it off with the positives sides, because it helps me getting through the day and it helps them dealing with me I guess. but also…. sometimes I would love to cry and shout and just be very mad and very sad all at once freely, without forcing myself to list all the beautiful things I want to do (and will do) but I do fear that… once I start, how will I be able to stop?

    I am sorry I wrote such a long comment but as you can see I really had a strong opinion on this topic !!!

    thanks. Viola

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    1. You expressed yourself very well. I mourned the loss of my breasts even while knowing I was saving my life. I didn’t realize how much my hair meant to me until I lost it. I was thrilled to get my period back after my first chemo at 34 but less than happy to learn that I was starting to experience premature ovarian failure at 36 so no pregnancies and early menopause at 42. Chemo accelerated the aging process of my reproductive system, something I wasn’t told before hand. I am so sorry that you are having to go through all this at such a young age. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Beautifully written. My oldest sister is a stage zero survivor. It’s now been five years and she’s cancer free. She had a double mastectomy with no reconstructive surgery afterwards. I loved her attitude about it at the time: “After a lifetime of being flat-chested, I’m 60 years old and NOW I’m going to finally have boobs? No thanks.”

    She knows she’s lucky, and at the same time she’s also aware of the possibility that it could come back. I watch her currently deal with the stresses of managing the care for her husband who is a double brain surgery survivor. I worry about how she’s coping with this responsibility. Like you, she doesn’t want sugar coating and false hopes.

    Keep the faith. And also keep up your wonderful posts.

    Like

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