October 27, 2000
Breast Cancer - The Biggest Killer
This is October, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Behind the warm and fuzzy pink ribbon events and perky celebrity survivors, there lies a dirty little truth; Breast Cancer has no cure. While I celebrate Breast Cancer coming out of the closet, so to speak, and encourage women to be serious in their self-exams and scheduling mammograms, I feel a strong need to remind people of this simple truth. There is no cure.
The breast cancer survival rates are based from an arbitrary 5 year survival for all women diagnosed with breast cancer, including women with Stage 0 (a precancerous condition). For example, my friend lost his wife to breast cancer 5 1/2 years after her diagnosis, buried her, and is left with their two young children to raise. She is counted as a breast cancer survivor. This is little comfort to her two young girls who have no mother. In what other business would dead people be called survivors.
For the last four years, twice as many American women have died of breast cancer than total Americans who have died in the AIDS epidemic in the same time frame. Forty three thousand women every year. Every year, almost the number of Americans who died in the long Vietnam War die of this disease. Every year.
The sad thing is, because we are a nation of puritans, we blame the women themselves. It must be negative thinking, or early childhood trauma, or ignorance. Believe me, when my mother died of breast cancer, I had a million reasons it would never happen to me. I had a healthy vegetarian lifestyle, I was happy and complete. While I went immediately to my doctor with my finding of a lump, my doctor told me, It didn"t feel like cancer and so did not send me for a mammogram. I was relieved. I believed him. I waited too long - only 2 months. But breast cancer has a doubling life of about three weeks. When a small lump, the size of a pencil eraser, doubles, and doubles again weeks later, we are talking between the possibility of possible disease free time and terminal illness.
Let's not get too confused with numbers, either. I did. And remember, surviving or beating this disease means 5 years, statistically. When a woman with stage 0 cancer is diagnosed (meaning precancerous cells are present) she has a ninty percent chance of beating this disease. Sounds good Ninety percent! But in truth it is like lining up ten of your women friends, standing them at a fence, and watching as one gets shot. When I was diagnosed, I had a fifty-fifty chance. It sounded good to me. But I realized, that is like you and one other woman standing at that fence. One of you is going to die. I was the one who got shot.
Why? I deepened my meditation practice of 20 years. I spent a weekend with Bernie Siegel. I did affirmations every day. I went to spiritual healers, Native American healings, Acupuncture, Soul Retrieval, Hypnotherapy, listened to healing tapes, juiced carrots and wheat grass, did a myriad of supplements, and thought I was experiencing a little bump in the road that would deepen my spiritual understanding.
It was devastating to learn that my cancer had metastasized. Once the cancer leaves the original site and is found in other organs, there is no longer talk of a cure. There is no cure.
The blessing is, that I have had time. Much more than the doctors offered me in the beginning. The oncology nurses sweetly refer to me as their little miracle. I am grateful for every day that I continue to share this planet with my loved ones. I have two young children that need me. It has been hard on all of us that I am so sick with this disease. But today is a beautiful day, full of fall colors, and I give thanks for it.
Women, empower yourselves. Early detection is not a cure, but it can help. Don't take no for an answer if you feel a suspicious lump.
We are the canaries in the coal mine when it comes to being a reflection of what we are doing to this planet. We mercilessly use toxic chemicals and are faced with known carcinogens every day in our food, our drinking water, in our air. We cannot keep our silence about this epidemic any longer. Children are losing their mothers. Women are dying. One of my favorite bumper stickers declares, If you're not outraged, You're not paying attention. Where is the outrage? Breast cancer is the biggest killer of women in my age group, age 40-50. Forty three thousand women every year. These women are your mothers, your wives, your sisters, your daughters. Let's demand a cure.
October 27, 2000