From the category archives:

Breast Cancer Awareness

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“As part of a regular ongoing effort to provide quality patient care,” reads the letter from the Breast “Care” Center. “We encourage annual follow up care.” It then goes on to say that they would greatly appreciate receiving information concerning my health status since last treated there.

Really?

This is the Breast Care Center where I had  mammograms for ten years without ever receiving a bi-rad score, and where they could no detect a hazel nut sized, slow growing, tumor from one year to the next. I was the one who discovered my tumor when it  was T1C-almost Stage 2.

This is the Breast Care Center where the radiologist, as she measured my ominous lump on the computer screen during my biopsy, said: Oh, we saw that last year. But we did not know what it was.  How about finding out? Is that not what radiologists are supposed to do? Are they not supposed to investigate a lump seen on a mammogram? Is that not why women have them?

This is the Breast Care Center where I was sent me home after a biopsy with detailed instructions on how to apply an ice pack on my breast every fifteen minutes. They told me not to have vigorous activity for 24 hours. Told me, that if I had a large area of redness or fever, I were to call them  immediately. But there was not one word what I should do in the unfortunate event the biopsy was not what they had hoped. No instructions at all how I should proceed if my biopsy was positive for cancer.

This is a letter from the Breast Care Center where its own radiologists calls me at work and tells me: You have cancer. Any questions? And hangs up on me when I, too stunned to even understand what she just told me, answers: No, no questions.

Click.

This is a Breast Care Center where a major overhaul of both procedures and training of staff is needed – an overhaul of everything from how to communicate with a patient, how to read an x-ray, what to do when a radiologist sees something “she does not know what it means.” How about consulting with another doctor? How about calling the patient back for additional x-rays? How about a biopsy?

And as part of the general over haul, this Breast Care Center should consider some new magazine subscriptions.

Most women no longer crochet doilies or make many casseroles. At least no one I know.

I will write them back and let them know my status: I will never set foot there, ever, again. The letter came with a stamped return enevelope.

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In case you somehow missed it: October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.   Basically, it means you are supposed to spend money to help find a cure. But why do we need to buy fluffy pink socks and eat pink cup cakes to raise money for much needed research? After all, breast cancer is a hideous disease, neither fluffy nor pink. Nobody expects us to buy baseball caps or bake “brownies for bombs” to fund our national defense. We have no “National Security Awareness Month.”

Our national defense and cancer research  are both about saving lives and preventing deaths.  So why then is one activity fully funded with our tax money while the other one needs supplemental funding, money raised from from bake sales, 10K races and our purchases of “pink” products? The problem  I have with marketing and voluntary contributions for the cure is this: You never know how much money is really spent or where the money goes. Could it be that you raise more mony if you write a check straight to your favorite cancer research center and by pass the pink hoopla?

When it comes to various races “for the cure,” I am completely on board. It is a healthy activity, a bonding experience, and millions of dollars go straight to the coffers of those who are helping us in the fight against breast cancer.

When it comes to “buying pink for the cure” I am quite cynical.  Just a glance at the racks of shoddy pink merchandise gives me a queasy feeling of being marginalized, trivialized and commercialized. Many of the items look cheap and useless, more suited to be sold in souvenir shops at air ports, at  carnivals, or at state fairs than as items to raise funds to save the lives of women.

Worst of all, it is near impossible to figure out exactly how much of the profits will be contributed to the cause. Sometimes, a merchant will promise donations of “up to 50,000” or “$100,000.” But what is that in percentage of profits? Is it 0.25 percent, one percent,or ten percent? More? Less?

Some products are out right insulting. Take, for example, Proctor & Gamble’s  pink cookware set designed for “Cooking Up Early Detection.”

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If you buy $25 of any number of Proctor  & Gamble  products – could be anything from diapers to Tampax and Cheer detergent to Fixodent – you will get a FREE set of pink cook ware from the “Good Cook’s Hope Line.”

First, NO MENTION of a contribution to cancer research. Second, the strings attached in order to receive this free cook ware are pretty stringent, according to the coupon.

I can only assume that P&G’s  cost of manufacturing and shipping the free 10″  frying pan, the spatula and the measuring cups is off set by valuable data base information for marketing purposes.

On the back of the coupon, P&G assures me that my personal information will be “protected.” Protected from whom? Obviously not P & G, they already have my data. One also hopes that the free pink cook set has been thoroughly tested and that the items will not expose women to more carcinogens as they, full of hope, fluff up their omelets in their new pink Teflon pans.

Sadly, despite all the pink hoopla and all the billions of dollars raised over the years, we are not anywhere close to a “cure.”  Prevention is not even on the radar screen, it seems.

Since so little progress has been made. Let us demand accountability of how cancer funds are spent and on what type of research.

Finally,why is the orange month of October designated as ‘breast cancer awareness month?” Why not the more “feminine” and  “pink” month of May? If we need to stick with fund raisers and the color pink in order to fight breast cancer, let us make Mother’s Day our breast cancer awareness day. Everyone on earth had a mother at some point. What day could be more appropriate to celebrate women and as a call to arms?

Let’s march to take back our breasts from those who exploit them for profit!

Let us declare war on pink trivia !

Let us demand that a woman’s breasts be  deified in more than the sexual sense.

Let us be careful about to whom we issue our checks. If unsure, we can give directly to the major research centers. Five dollars to them is probably a better contribution to the cause than $25 spent on a pair of pink sweat pants that will make us look like Miss Piggy.

Let us properly fund the disease that kills up to fifty thousand of us, and disfigures many more, every year. Maybe we should declare Persephone,  the goddess of  both the underworld  and spring growth, the breast cancer goddess also. Somehow it seems befitting.

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Does an Apple a Day Have Too Many Carcinogens?

October 3, 2009

Does an apple a day keeps the doctor away, or? I understand all about the benefits of antioxidants interacting with  free radicals. Sort of. But I still want to know how fruits and vegetables are encouraged by health professionals and nutrition experts without any mention of pesticides and carcinogens. It needs to get as much […]

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Little Pink Bows Everywhere

August 13, 2009

Before my diagnosis, I paid no attention to pink bows, the symbol for breast cancer awareness.  But now that I have been initiated into the pink bow sisterhood, I see pink constantly and everywhere. It is obviously a powerful marketing tool. Water bottles,  T-shirts, hats,  and slippers are decorated with pink bows. There are pink […]

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Hypochondria Galore

August 6, 2009

No MRI results. No pathology report on the calcification in my left breast. No surgery date  – yet – to remove the cancerous hazelnut in my right breast. Five weeks have passed since I received my diagnosis. Five weeks since I was told I may have lived with breast cancer for a whole decade. And […]

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My Gynecologist Was a Drug Pusher

August 1, 2009

Dr. Bored, my gynecologist for more than a decade, was a drug pusher and his drug of choice was Premarin. -Take this and you will feel great. -But I feel great. A little insomnia perhaps, but don’t you need less sleep as you age? -Premarin will take care of it. -A little creaky sometimes. -Premarin […]

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“Ask an Expert” – It May Save Your Life

August 1, 2009

You don’t understand your doctor’s mumbo-jumbo, or have doubts?  You are confused about the correctness of your diagnosis or your pathology report? You are too scared to wait six months to find out what may lurk inside your boob?  You have a family member, or a friend, with breast cancer and you want to figure […]

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My Medical History Is…Lost

July 22, 2009

My medical records have evaporated. Buried in some nuclear waste site? My “health file” at home contains a brochure regarding an ancient, and expired, insurance plan. Not a single piece of paper refers to past doctor’s visits or mammograms. Not a single reference to the benign findings of my earlier biopsy. Certainly no pathology report. […]

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No Self-Pity, Just Curiosity.

July 3, 2009

I am reading in the garden, pool side, when I notice the gathering clouds and hear the rumble in the distance, so I dart inside the house to lie down on the living room sofa. My husband is already napping upstairs. Claps of thunder before rain begins to drum against the tall windows as I drift […]

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How to Lie with Statistics – or Just Ignore Them.

June 27, 2009

A perfect day to hang out in our wonderful pool, the one extravagant purchase we do not regret. It is large and deep, filled with cool turquoise,  mildly salty, water, soothing to both body and soul. My friend Cecilia comes over and gives me “The Complete Guide to Breast Cancer.” (Winner of the Ross Kushner […]

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