SERIOUS WOE-IS-ME SNARKINESS AHEAD………..also references to the female anatomy, um, and some cussing….so if that offends, you might wanna skip this……
For someone who is all about rabid quality of life and not quantity, a woman doesn’t “survive” breast cancer. She may get a reprieve, but eventually, one way or another it gets her; in whole, or in bite size pieces.
Today I took Gavin to the park. It was about 70 degrees. I sat freezing in my hoodie and read Carolyn’s book. And it sank in, for the first time, my life is never going to be the same again. You may think, well duh. But, I’ve read so many stories about how women have “beaten the cancer” and survived, gone on to live full ‘good’ lives. Really? Because if that’s true, then I just want to say, someone is lyin’ (or our definitions of good are vastly different).
With invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC), the lump (by pieces or the whole breast) and lymph nodes are taken to determine if the cancer is in the lymph system. Once the lymphs are gone, the arm is more prone to infection. Other issues result like problems with range of motion; can’t get blood pressure taken, blood drawn, flying can also be a problem because the lymph fluid can build up in the arm; no weight training. There are a whole host of problems a woman will likely have with that arm. And, god forbid, when she gets fat, and oh yes there is a 60-96% chance (where oh where do they get these numbers?!) she will be a porker at the end of this “journey.” And of course, obesity makes lymphedema so much worse. Doubt me? Wiki has some grreeeeeeat pics. Just don’t look while eating.
Of course, on chemo, besides losing hair and the long list of side effects like: irreversible damage to the heart, damage (sometimes permanent) to mental acuity, (jokingly referred to as “chemo brain,”), periodontal problems, infections, blood clots (which may just kill you, ask my Aunt Shelby, oh you can’t because the blood clots from chemo killed her!), fatigue, and weight gain, you also get to take drugs to keep you from hurling. Guess what they do? That’s right. The drugs to keep you from puking up your stomach lining make you fat. And that’s not all. Tell the lucky breast cancer recipient what other prizes she has in store Johnny!
~Crowd cheers wildly ~
Chemo tends to throw a woman into menopause.
In fact, I’ve read fairly consistently that the bones and body age a decade in a single year of poisoning, and for some women two decades. Imagine if twelve months from now you woke up with all the weight your body will gain in the next ten years, or twenty. And you know it ain’t from eating since you can barely keep anything down. Your arm hurts. You don’t have a tit. You sweat, have chills, are grumpy, and on top of all that, have a dry vagina. I mean, really? A boob isn’t bad enough? The vagina has to be thrown in for good measure?
Who the hell has sex with these women?
Oh that’s right….low libido too.
See my point about survival? About defining “good” living?
In the first Shrek movie, there is a scene where Donkey and Shrek have to cross a “rickety old bridge over a boiling lake of lava.” Donkey wants none of it. But Shrek, he wants his life back, and to get his life back he has to rescue the princess. And the princess is in the castle, in the highest tower, across the boiling lake of lava.
So the risk of that rickety old bridge is worth it. The risk to his life may lead to getting his life back exactly as it was before. Donkey on the other hand, is fairly content with life, so the risk of the bridge is not even worth considering.
I can’t help but think of breast cancer “treatment” like that rickety old bridge. Except in my scenario a choleric old Troll is standing in front of it demanding a breast, my hair, an arm, my energy, and my youth, as payment to just step onto the rotting slats. I can’t go backward or around because the ground behind me is crumbling beneath my feet, falling down down down into the Nothing. There’s nowhere to go but forward…but oh the price!
Even paying such a high toll, there are no guarantees the rickety old bridge will stay together long enough to carry me across. In fact, I’m not sure because the waves of heat distort my vision, and my brain isn’t working the way it should, but I think there is ANOTHER TROLL in the middle of the bridge. He wants to give me a something; a heart problem, a new cancer, internal organ damage; you know, a gift for making it half way across bald, without a boob, without an arm, grumpy, and a dry vagina.
If I make it past that troll, the bridge will hang low sweet chariot, because one of the gifts of walking it involves packing on the pounds. And then there is always the risk, the ever present reality of the lava, the weak tread of the bridge, the heat. Some women succumb to the heat. Others see the second troll and jump, or the bridge collapses from all the weight, sending the bald-headed, one boobed, one armed, grumpy, dry vagina into a hellish death.
I know me. I’ll be grumpy and will try to fight the bastard with my good arm. In the end though, I’m a bald, one-armed, one-boobed, menopausal, chemo brained fat ass with a dry vagina. He’ll take his pound of flesh, grant his gifts and laugh as I pass.
If I make it to the other side, sure I can say I “survived.” After all my heart is still beating, maybe a little off-kilter, maybe. But still beating.
Some wiser, “gentler” women, who have tread the bridge before me say that when I roll up on the other side, scarred, out of breath from being so fat, tired, I’ll be thankful. That’s right. Thankful.
Hair grows back after all. Teeth can be veneered. Boobs can be rebuilt. Franken boobs aren’t quite the real deal, but with the lights off you can barely tell the difference.
What’s life without a goal? Losing all that weight, while not using my right arm, will be just what the Dr orders, literally.
Who needs mental acuity? Fake it till you make it. (Worked so far ain’t it?)
And those pesky potential internal organ problems? Puh-lease. Out of sight, out of mind.
Vaginal dryness? Two words. KY Jelly.
Low libido? See “mental acuity.”
Is it wrong to be annoyed when most of the women who offer such sage advice were biologically already in this field of dreams? So the transition for them wasn’t so much measured in how much they lost, but in degree of things they were already accustomed to being gone.
I get added gift of starting onto the rickety old bridge fairly young and healthy. And in 12 months I get to be a grumpy, fat ass old lady, bald, with one boob, one arm, and a dry vagina.
Wow. That’s livin!