It’s been an interesting summer. For New York City, the summer of 2012 has been one of the hottest and most humid summers on record. But let’s face it, every summer in NYC feels like you’re living on the sun. And for more than half of the summer season it has felt like hell to me.
When I first learned that the Death Star was in its fixed boob orbit it looked like it would be a pretty matter-of-fact approach: hormonal therapy and a lumpectomy—if the tumor was even left. I immersed myself in the literature and read the discussion boards. I felt guilty, actually. I was taken aback, but I didn’t have it as bad as some people. I couldn’t complain.
Then I got the news from the oncologist and the word chemotherapy was first mentioned. Balls. I was scared, but I recovered. Okay, said me, suck it up. I got back on to the boards to read about this revised cancer chapter of my life. I still felt guilty, but relieved I didn’t have it worse. Move on with life; it’s going to be a bitch but a year from now I’ll put this behind me. And behind me for good.
Well, that plan’s in the shitter. Now, as I approach my front door, I half expect to see the doorbell turn into the face of Jacob Marley. I always felt bad for old Marley. Even if he was a greedy guy in his life, it’s a shame that he had to drag around those chains for an eternity. Now I need to talk to him because I need some tips on how to drag around chains and weights.
If I want to go the lemons into lemonade route, I could turn this into a business. You know, show up at the residences of women all over the country and scare them into touching their boobs. I could be hired to berate procrastinators who ignore lumps or changes in their boobs. Instead of “Race for the Cure,” I could start “Weights for the Cure” where participants would drag their weights and chains through the streets raising a racket and scaring people into donating money for the cure. We could carry placards with pictures of real cancerous tumors and boobs in all of their horrific glory. You know, kinda like zombies (but they would look way better). And instead of a pink ribbon, the marketing hook would be a cold, steel link of chain.
Welcome to the cold hard reality of Stage IV breast cancer. I can’t say I know what it really means. I’ve read through the discussion boards and feel sorely inadequate. These women are hard core—they need to be. They have nicknames for medications, know therapies and treatments like the back of their collective hands, and have knowledge of their cancer the way an old salt has knowledge of the sea. I was hoping I’d never have to get to that point.
But here I am. And now it’s time to manage the disease. I manage my asthma (thank you career in archives). I manage my mild hypertension (thank you people in archives). Now I will manage cancer (thank . . . no, I guess there’s no one to thank for this mess).
Cancer is a loaded noun. It sounds scary and, as it turns out, it always was a pretty scary noun/adjective. I have learned that it was first used to describe ulcers in the second half of the fourteenth century. It derives from the Greek karkinos (crab) because the ends of the little “feelers” that branch out of the tumor look like crab claws. It was pronounced canker until the seventeenth century. Talk about branding. And we think Microsoft has full market saturation.
Going forward my strategy has to be four-fold:
- Become fully versed in the history, mechanism, and treatment of estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer so that I can make intelligent treatment decisions;
- Over time learn ways to integrate this disease into my life so that it does not dominate my activity any more than it has to;
- Continue in my resolve to embrace pink only insofar as it has age-reduction qualities; and
- Find a way to keep writing this blog for the next 20 years.
All things considered, I’d rather have a tapeworm.