Written in the stars?


Constellation: Leo

I confess I don’t believe in horoscopes but every now and then something comes up that might just hold a smidgen of accuracy. Today my horoscope says: “This week you are reconstructing something that was once deliberately dismantled. It will be a positive process.”

Prophylactic mastectomy could easily be classified as something being deliberately dismantled. In this case a left breast. Immediate reconstruction with ADM plus an implant is reconstruction (of said left breast removed and reconstructed on Wednesday afternoon). This week’s horoscope begins to sound quite plausible. “It will be a positive process.”  That’s such an open-ended statement. Does ‘it’ relate to the dismantling, reconstructing, both or something else entirely – there are a host of physical and psychological processes going on right now but are they positive processes?

After giving this a lot of thought the only conclusion I can draw is yes.

This surgery had the potential to resurrect so much that was difficult, painful and confusing, negative even. Being diagnosed with cancer isn’t a positive life event; my previous surgery was cancer surgery and it caused significant disruption in my life and the lives of my loved ones.  We are still recovering from some of those problems. This time around the procedure was broadly the same but the reasons are different. The next steps won’t (with luck) involve any further treatment.

I can’t change what’s written in the stars, or more precisely, in my genetic code but limiting its potential impact is another story.  Taking action is a hugely positive process. It is not without cost but what value do you place on the chance to live beyond 50 years of age, to see your child grow up, meet your grandchildren, enjoy your retirement?

Women with two or more close relatives who develop breast cancer at an early age fall into the high-risk category. Those who’ve already experienced the disease face an increased risk of another encounter. I tick both of those boxes and my first encounter was aggressive and high grade. Very recent research indicates the risk for women with long histories of familial breast cancer may be as much as 1 in 3 rather than the typical 1 in 8. I tick that box too. For people like me undergoing prophylactic surgery may reduce the risk by as much as 90%. Of course it’s important to remain vigilant because risk-reducing surgery isn’t a panacea, it doesn’t make cancer an impossibility in the same way wearing a seatbelt doesn’t make everyone survive serious car accidents.

In life there are no guarantees – never were – we just kid ourselves that we’re invincible. However the benefits of this process, of dismantling and reconstructing, aren’t just physical. For me some of the most positive aspects are psychological. No more annual mammograms that leave me fretting over the reliability of results. No more second guessing self-exams that might or might not have uncovered another anomaly. No more thinking of my own flesh as a time bomb waiting to go off (again).

For more than twenty years I lived with a question that I was never able to answer to my own satisfaction. The question: “Have I done enough to reduce my risk of cancer?”

For the first time in a long time I am able to answer fully and frankly: “Yes. There is nothing more I or anyone else can do.”


6 thoughts on “Written in the stars?

  1. Like you I do not believe in any form of predestination. Sure there are things about us–genetics, parents’ social standing and such that have a profound effect on our lives; things of which we have little or no control. That said it’s been my own experience that there is such a thing as free will. Each day we are faced with a myriad of choice. Some we consider carefully and others–what to wear for example–get little more than a moment’s consideration.
    But yes, there does come a time when we have done all it is that we can and that what’s left is beyond our control. In other words, our actions only account for a certain amount of the variance and the rest depends on something else.
    Of course I can offer a “good luck” but that always has such a hollow ring to it; something that we almost say unconsciously, even when it’s sincere.
    There’s always the black swans though; things that come out of nowhere and, when finally made manifest extort a profound effect on our surroundings. We can never anticipate them, though–that’s the whole point. Just this morning I encountered a black-ish swan. While driving to work I was listening to the local CBC morning show on AM radio and one of the stories reported on a somewhat promising bit of research done in Breast cancer research. Two groups of mice were ‘inflicted’ with similar breast cancer tumors. The experimental group, though, had access to an exercise wheel and were found to have slower growing tumours that were less inclined to metastasize. Who knows maybe this holds some bearing for humans too. Only time will tell for that one too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Maurice, we share similar thoughts about choice, free will and making the best of what we have while we have it. That’s what matters most I think.

      The research about exercise worries me. Not because it’s a bad thing but because I think we – humans – are looking for a cancer silver bullet and hoping beyond hope there is a low-cost measure that can avert the impending storm.

      Years ago bubonic plague, small pox, cholera and Spanish flu were the scourges of human kind. Today it’s cancer. More of us are living longer and typically its a disease of older people. More of us are also developing it younger, like my 30 year old ward-mate struck ‘out of the blue’ and shocked because everyone, even hospital staff, had made fun of her for her religiously healthy eating and fitness regime. A disease we barely understand now affects young and old, fit and unfit, vegetarians and junk food addicts and is typically more aggressive in its younger, fitter, healthier subjects? It makes little sense which tends to imply there are countless variables at play.

      With 1 in 3 of all humans facing cancer at some point in their lives the storm is coming. What remains unspoken is that dealing with it is likely to prove unaffordable. The Media and Governments have a unique way of spinning stories when the money doesn’t add up. I wouldn’t like to see a world where developing cancer makes the individual a pariah like drinking, smoking and being gay or bi-sexual have done in the past. Despite improved education in many countries, humanity still doesn’t have a good track record when dealing with these complex human situations.


  2. So pleased you’re through the surgery Tracy! You’ll be very glad to have that behind you. I too am now part pig, part silicon (a ‘double’ in Jan ’14). Very happy to have had the option, and the possibility to do – as you say – what I could to reduce the risk of cancer. Live well Tracy! I hope your recovery goes smoothly!


    • Thank you Margarete. I agree, it’s good to have this option and to do as much as we can to preserve our health. I wish you many happy and healthy years to come xoxox


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