Two of my friends got the dreaded call from their OB-GYNs after their routine mammogram. The call that makes you sweat. The call that makes you wish you’d refused to pick up the phone. The call that makes you wonder how the person on the other end of the line can be so calm when you’re freaking out. The call that sets in place a chain of events that have the power to change your life forever.
How ironic that out of all the women in the world, and out of all the women I know personally, and out of all the women I consider friends, two of them got the call. On the same day.
It’s not fair.
I don’t like it.
But that’s the reality of breast cancer.
It’s indiscriminate. It cares nothing for age — both of my friends are under 40. It cares nothing for financial status. It cares nothing for how well or how poorly one treats one’s body. It strikes old and young, wealthy and struggling, health nuts and McDonald’s junkies. That’s the reality. There’s very little rhyme or reason to it. It’s a crapshoot.
I’ve said it before and will continue saying it: I’m so sick of cancer.
The reality of any kind of cancer is shitty. I can’t think of a better word for it. Any cancer is shitty. I speak of the shittiness of breast cancer because that’s the one I know, but I certainly don’t think it’s the only cancer that is shitty. Just a disclaimer and an affirmation that all cancer is shitty. And proof that I really like using the word shitty. And shittiness.
There is of course a good chance that both of my friends will escape breast cancer’s grasp. I’m hopeful that the follow-up ultrasound/MRI/biopsy shows nothing. Calcifications, fibroids, dense tissue, cysts. There are lots of things it could be, and the rate of false negatives is something to hang on to in these situations. The National Cancer Institute puts that false-negative rate at 10 percent. I’m hopeful. “False-positive mammogram results can lead to anxiety and other forms of psychological distress in affected women. The additional testing required to rule out cancer can also be costly and time consuming and can cause physical discomfort,” according to the NCI website. Really? Ya think?
That’s ok. Both of my friends can take the costly, time-consuming, and uncomfortable aspects of the additional testing. It’s the anxiety-causing aspects that are hell. The thoughts that run through one’s mind between receiving the dreaded phone call and getting the additional testing can make one crazy. Then there’s the infernal waiting period between the additional testing and receiving results. It’s a wonder we’re not all stark-raving maniacs popping sedatives every hour on the hour.
This is the reality of breast cancer.
Even when it hasn’t struck, when it’s a mere possibility instead of a certainty. Even when it hasn’t infiltrated your life for real, it has the power to mess you up. Way before actual diagnosis, the reality of breast cancer is harsh and unrelenting. And guess what? Even after “getting through it” in terms of receiving the dreaded phone call, having the additional testing done, hearing the actual diagnosis, making the decisions necessary, and undergoing surgery and/or treatment, it’s harsh and unrelenting. Coming to grips with one’s new body. Dealing with the mountains of paperwork and bills. Keeping abreast (haha) of the latest research. Deciding what lifestyle changes to make or not make. Navigating the psychological fracas. Coming face-to-face with mortality. Moving through the treacherous stages of emotional distress. Facing the ever-present prospect of recurrence.
This is the reality of breast cancer.
One of my two friends fell victim to crappy insurance. She had some symptoms that caught her attention months ago but waited to get it checked out until the new, better insurance took effect. Even in the suburban bubble, where affluence reigns, insurance hassles prevail.
Which leads me to remind everyone to please take a few seconds out of your day to vote for The Rose in The Pink Well Challenge that I mentioned yesterday. The Rose helps women who don’t live in an affluent bubble get access to the breast health care that can make a real difference in their lives. If you’ve ever spent one second thinking how lucky you are to have whatever version of insurance you have, this is your chance to give back. If you have no insurance and you’ve spent more than one second worrying about that, this is your chance to help others in the same boat. If you have great insurance and have never had a health worry, I don’t want to talk to you right now but you can still help. :)
It’s easy to help, but time is running out. Click on The Pink Well Challenge link above or right here, click “VOTE NOW,” enter your email address, check your email for the access-granting link (do it now, not later because I don’t want you to forget), click the link, scroll down to charity #137, enter “10” in the box on the far right, and submit. Tell your friends and nag your family members.
And keep your fingers crossed for my two friends.
Houston philanthropist Lester Smith was on the Ellen show this week. I missed it, and I sure am mad — I would have loved to have gotten the word out earlier about Lester’s latest project: The Pink Well Challenge.
Lester and his wife Sue are both cancer survivors, and their foundation is ponying up big cake for cancer charities. The Lester and Sue Smith foundation is giving away $1 million to small cancer charities across the country.
There’s a contest to see how the money is divvied up, and you can help. It’s easy, takes about 10 seconds, and all you have to do is vote. I’m not going to tell you which charity to vote for, but if you’re not sure which way to go, pick The Rose.
The Rose is a fantastic organization that provides screening and diagnostic services to underprivileged women, including a mobile mammogram service.Created by two women who were inspired by a breast cancer patient & advocate, The Rose has a simple goal: “to reduce deaths from breast cancer by eliminating barriers and providing access to essential resources. Women who are insured help The Rose care for those who are uninsured.”
The Rose does an awful lot in the greater Houston area. According to their website, last year The Rose delivered 90,067 services, including 19,053 screening and diagnostic procedures at no charge to low income, uninsured women. This program provides breast cancer detection services to those who cannot afford the costs of these potentially life-saving procedures.
See why you need to vote for The Rose to win Lester Smith’s contest?
And you need to do it now — voting ends tomorrow. Man, I wish I’d heard about this sooner.
Please, do me a favor and go to the Pink Well Challenge website and vote. Click here or type the website into your browser yourself: http://pinkwell.org; either way, please vote. Click on the “VOTE NOW” link on the blue box. I would love to see The Rose get a $25,000 grant. That would totally make my day.
Did you vote yet?