Back to blogging. And Breast Cancer 101.


The dead cannot cry out for justice. It is a duty of the living to do so for them. Lois McMaster Bujold.

I haven’t been blogging lately because, to be honest, I lost my mojo.  I lost my mojo because there’s been a lot of sh*t happening. A whole damned sewage farm to be precise. You’d think I’d be used to it by now since it’s been a regular feature for a large portion of my life to date. Losing all but one of my female relatives on my Mum’s side of the family due to breast cancer before they reached age 50 is sh*tty.  Having 3 miscarriages and the subsequent clean-up operations scores fairly high on the sh*t-o-meter too. Being bullied, discriminated against, lied to, let down, isolated, poor, getting burgled and mugged… all those things encourage me to believe sh*t definitely happens. Oh and I almost forgot developing an aggressive breast cancer, having major surgery, chemotherapy, losing all my hair, taking steroids, developing a treatment induced needle phobia, gaining 22lbs in 3 months, early menopause, insomnia and herceptin – those things are a little on the sh*tty side as well. 

OK, I confess herceptin isn’t that bad.  It’s on the list because it involves needles and my brain can no longer deal with that concept. I have another opportunity to test out my new phobia tomorrow when I go for herceptin number six.

Back to the main story.  All these events occurred in less than 20 years and yet I still have a pesky optimistic streak that refuses to let me believe more sh*t will happen.  Of course I should know better because it does and once the pile is big enough I lose my mojo, go into hiding and wait for irksome optimism to flush it all away again.  Einstein said “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I overcome one load from the sewage works, start thinking better times lie ahead and sure enough more sh*t happens.  As well as being needle phobic I now do a reasonable job of feigning sanity because the recent happenings include workplace shenanigans, my son suffering another fairly serious sport-induced injury, learning that the chemo fuelled steroid binge means I can’t have risk-reducing surgeries when or where I hoped to have them, losing one of my friends and finding out another’s cancer has returned with a vengeance. I think its safe to say sh*t happens. All I need now is a big bill from the tax man! (Fortunately my taxes are all up to date and paid in full so if the tax man comes knocking he’ll be sent away empty- handed).

My mojo up and left during the past few weeks due to all the above and more that I wont bore you with. It’s not quite ready to come out of hiding but I have reason to write and breast cancer 101 may be a good place to start. 

Lisa over at Alright Tit  died on 11th March thanks to breast cancer.  In spite of her positive spirit and amazing humour she didn’t live to see her 35th birthday.  Lisa isn’t alone. I know a number of women diagnosed with breast cancer in their 20’s and 30’s whose outlook is far from pink and pretty. So it seems a breast cancer 101 is long overdue. People who aren’t directly involved in or affected by this disease may be under the illusion that all breast cancer is curable and all breast cancer patients make a full recovery.  Sadly that perception is a long way short of the truth. 

Whilst breast cancer survival rates have improved dramatically over the past 50 years not all breast cancers are equal and we are yet to find a cure.  Research seems to suggest that a range of genetic anomalies and environmental factors cause cell mutations but the more we learn the more complex the transition of normal cells to potential killers appears to be. Until you start digging into this stuff you don’t realise how dauntingly difficult it is and let’s be frank unless you’re a geneticist, a cancer specialist or a cancer patient with a thirst for knowledge you have better things to do.

The charade that has sprung up around breast cancer is, in my view, quite dangerous.  It leads the uninformed to believe that everyone makes a full recovery and that dealing with the disease is pretty straightforward these days.  It also causes some remarkable comments such as:

  • “Well, at least you have one of the easy cancers…”   There is no easy cancer and breast cancer is far from easy. The aggressive forms remain very difficult to treat and the treatment is tough. The less aggressive forms can also recur, there are no guarantees, the disease isn’t choosy.
  • So chemo must have cured you then…”  Chemo aims to reduce tumours to enable surgery or prevent any micro-metastases developing into new cancers. Aggressive cancers are more prone to metastasize and chemo is not a silver bullet.
  • “It must be nice getting back to normal…”  It is nice being out of chemo but treatment isn’t over and there is no normal following breast cancer.
  • “You must be relieved it’s all over.”  It is not all over. It will never be all over because breast cancer can return within a couple of years, up to 25+ years later or at any time in between.
  • “It must have been nice having extra time at home.” It was isolating. Most of the extra time was spent having needles shoved in me, things cut out of me and worrying about my family’s future… if a vacation in Hades is your idea of fun then yes it was nice 🙂

I don’t blame people for saying these things and I don’t think they’re being deliberately insensitive.  I think the publicity around breast cancer leads them into a false sense of security – they genuinely believe its curable, easy to treat and simple to recover from.  No one is telling them cancer treatment screws up your body in so many ways, leaves many people with PTSD and pushes people to their limits in every way imaginable.

Lisa’s death brings it home. Breast cancer is indiscriminate, it is still taking too many lives including a number of very young ones.  Before it deals its ultimate blow it takes just away about everything else as this post from Alright Tit so honestly expresses. The dead cannot cry out for justice. It is a duty of the living to do so for them.Good night Lisa, I hope you’re resting peacefully now.