I wish cancer got cancer and died!

Today was rotten.

And it is Saturday.  I hate it when Saturday is rotten.

And I am tired.  And worried.  And my heart is heavy.

I guess that makes me in the same boat as most people.

And then there was a text this afternoon.

And just like that breast cancer claimed another life.  Just like that two women had no mother, and a husband lost his wife.

To the best of my knowledge she didn’t have Cowden’s or BRCA, or any other genetic cause for her cancer.  But then again, neither do most people.  And I was reminded again that maybe having Cowden’s makes me a little luckier.

I knew to get the beast before it got me.

She was not old enough to die.  But, then again, who is?

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And even when I held her hands in June and looked her square in the eye, and told her to fight with all her might – I knew.  She knew too.  Deep in that place where the thoughts are that you just don’t want to think, or feel, or believe.  We both knew that this is how it would end.

Cancer is stupid, and mean and nasty, and ugly and awful.  It’s a big bully and I really hate bullies.

I’m pretty much over this “Breast Cancer Awareness” thing.

As a matter of fact I am over the whole cancer thing altogether.

Ready for a cure.

Broken hearts.  Lives crushed.  Too many wakes and funerals.  Too many people gone too soon.

My heart hurts.  My head hurts.  And I think some part of me feels guilty.

Guilty for having a “head start.”  Guilty for having the support to push me through the double mastectomy.

This is the first person in my life to die of breast cancer since my diagnosis.  I am sadly sure she won’t be the last.

And, like so many things that have changed since March 5, 2012 – this one hurts differently.  Worse.

Cancer really just sucks.

cancer sucks

Race for the Cure!

I woke this morning to the sound of my dogs running back and forth through the house.  They weren’t barking – just running.

The sound also woke Felix who is quicker in the mornings than I am.

“Weren’t you supposed to be up at 6?”

Gulp.  Sure was.  And that was my Mom at the door waiting to take Meghan and I to the Race for the Cure in Central Park.

As I quickly washed, my face, and changed my clothes.  I let Felix see to Meghan.  I was annoyed at myself for oversleeping.  I purposely set the alarm on my cell phone so I would have to undo the lock screen to shut it down.  Apparently I was THAT tired.

We have been going to this race for at least 15 years.  Some of the participants have come and gone, but Mom and I have been there together… well except for 2003 when Meghan was just about a month old.

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And, for the better part of the last 10 years Meghan has joined us.  She was always so eager to support Grandma, that once I had the title of “Survivor” too she was determined to support us both.

Except last year.  When she was sidelined.  Sick with a fever early in the school year.  As devastated as she was I convinced her this was the year that mattered.  This was the year I could say I was a FULL year without my breast cancer.

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Dates matter.

When Mom was first diagnosed in 1997, I wasn’t sure she would be ok.  Although she battled through 2 mastectomies, and chemo, and 5 years of tamoxifen like a champ, it became important to celebrate the victories.  The milestones.  So Meghan has grown up watching me acknowledge Grandma’s “Pink Ribbon Anniversaries” three times a year. (First surgery, second surgery, end of chemo)  And while the acknowledgements are small they are an understanding between us that we remember.  We are grateful.

The race every September in Central Park was a natural outgrowth of that.  A desire to celebrate.  To be thankful.  To remember.

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Of course for me things feel a bit different sometimes.  Last night I told my husband I sometimes feel guilty wearing the pink “Survivor” T shirt.  He was perplexed.  I explained that I didn’t feel like I “survived” chemo, or radiation, or any of the things most women go through.  To which his sassy reply was, “You were tired of the old boobs? That’s why you had them cut off?”

See I wonder sometimes if would have been different if there was no cancer.  If the mastectomy had indeed been prophylactic would that change the fact that a genetic predisposition – AKA Cowden’s Syndrome (in ADDITION to having a first degree relative with breast cancer,) had pretty much predetermined the fate of my breasts?

I have “met” in this virtual world, and now in my real life, quite a few “previvors” who have taken an empowered approach to their genetic predisposition and had a mastectomy, and/or a hysterectomy.

I would say they are as much “survivors” as anyone.  Bravery, coupled with a desire to be there for your children and your family motivates these women to endure major surgery(ies.)

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/survivor  The Free Dictionary.com has the following definition of Survivor…

sur·vive  (sr-vv)

v. sur·vived, sur·viv·ing, sur·vives
v.intr.

1. To remain alive or in existence.
2. To carry on despite hardships or trauma; persevere: families that were surviving in tents after the flood.
3. To remain functional or usable: I dropped the radio, but it survived.
v.tr.

1. To live longer than; outlive: She survived her husband by five years.
2. To live, persist, or remain usable through: plants that can survive frosts; a clock that survived a fall.
3. To cope with (a trauma or setback); persevere after: survived child abuse.
So I put on my pink shirt, and we got out the door (t+Chai in hand) in just a few minutes.  We blew into Manhattan and found a spot on the street close to the park.
We walked through the “Expo” which was a little thinner than most years, took a few pictures, and then it was time to walk.
Although the weather was beautiful, Mom’s pinched nerve is not cooperating the way she would like, so she took a shorter route as Meghan and I headed to the starting line.
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For 3,2 miles, I pushed Meghan in her push chair.  She made friends along the way.  She met a police dog, and lots of nice ladies to whom she gave her “Cowden’s Card.”  And every time she gave it out I thought – Cowden’s Syndrome is more rare than BRCA, but just as lethal, even more so in some ways.  People should know.  I reminded her how glad I was – to have her
there.
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Just before the 3 mile mark we were joined by Grandma, and the three of us crossed the finish line together.
And as we walked under the pink balloon arch and turned towards the car I forced from my head the reality that we were now 2/3 pink.  I looked at my little girl in her white shirt, about to start 5th grade tomorrow.  I prayed for lots and lots of years for her to not have to worry about any of this.  I thought about how much better she looks in white than pink.  I searched my heart praying for a cure.
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And in the depths of my soul I don’t go a day without considering her 85% lifetime breast cancer risk.
Dates are important.
Now March 5, 2012 gets added to our celebration list.
Life is uncertain.  Celebrate the little victories together.  They are what matters most.