Cancer and Victimization

Victims or warriors? Can cancer truly create a personality that exudes false positivity? To act evasivly by smiling and saying everything is great when its not truly is an act of self victimization. To whom do we vent our internal state? A support group, good friend, spouce, family member?

God forbid anyone hear those three little words: “I’m sorry but…” and become a member of club cancer after this moment only they will know how we truly feel. Victims of corporate greed. Victims of poisonous cures. Victims of lonliness. Our futures victimized. Those we love victims all
of the pain of loss. We cannot remain as we once were changed forever. Some of us lose friendships and even face divorce in the most difficult time of our lives.

Stress takes on a whole new meaning as it could contribute to the furthering of our disease. If it’s possible to remain calm between scans, tests, years, months…Only those 1:8 know the ravages of this pandemic. And the lack of knowkedge to those of us with dense breasts who it seems haven’t the global right to know our breast density and thus our increased proclivity by 40% over those women without dense tissue.

Imagine being a man with a stage IV diagnosis. I only imagine they cannot bear witness to such a victimization of their gender and masculinity.

We then die as victims of information dissemination or lack thereof. The politics of illness keep us falling one after the other into open graves.

Two poems to leave you with this week on the act of victimizing the “other.” French Feminism dwells on this problem if you reach back about 30 years. Even the existentialists including one who personally changed me through reading her texts, Simone de Beauvoir said:
“I tore myself away from the safe comfort of certainties through my love for truth – and truth rewarded me.” May we all be saved by the truth of our own bodies and rewarded by health not punished by an ultimately wrongful death.

Victim
Dark blue night wings past
Snuffing out the end of day.
If memory serves,
Against curtains of magenta
Birds in paradise
Flew with flame flaring wings
And etched the scene into
Stone. The stripes earned by
Erosion and echoes
Cavernous crayon colors
Outside the river banks
Of eon twisted canyons
How stubbornly they
Remain unchanged yet to us
Markers of the waters trip out west
Sinking lower and lower then by
The end of the poem
A couplet of a sunset
Sinks in
To the sky writers of yesterday.

Let’s go kill this scene off
Of the death list —the so called
Bucket list. Bristling, insisting
Kicking a bucket is isn’t better revenge
Of a life lived well;
A container cannot defend itself;
It stores pictures without words.
Believing in emptiness
We never fill up our containers
And rename our dreams to fit
Infinite, empty, and black as ink.

Victims’ Dream

Pink cheeky girls woke up
Hearing my screams in the dank alleyway.
Just a caterwauling stray, they yawn,
Slipping into their pretty dreams
In between rose covered sheets —
Lining the inside of a restful box.

Curled up like kittens having tea
Painted into black flocked drops
Still life frozen stiff.
Another innocent mother
Wasting her love
Couldn’t know what to do:
Crying deeper than an orphan
With a never ending need
Of a basic meal and the itch unscratched it’s Mottled by parasites.

With her tongue like a steak knife
She clears the fleas she combs
From their fur bare coats.
Near silence hearing their satisfaction Through innocent mews,
Razor claws ripping, scratching, pushing
Her cradle fell away dying
I saw her almost speak
They watch her slowly
Creep back away and off
Like the sound of an old door
Squeaky and shut for the last time.

Finding herself everywhere,
Slashed and scattered she collects herself
From the pavement
Glass and stones
Hearts and bones.

Underneath the safety of a redwood porch.
Food and water sometimes appear
Bowing into the dish and darting
Up for air and reassurance against a trap.
Victims of a crisis or of conscience
Never get relief to drink or food to eat for thought.

In the dark wanting to see the other side
Only instead to stare back into our own faces.
Light of a camera obscured the window from a world view.
My hand saluting from my forehead
Blocking the indoor daylight at sleep from my eyes.
And mamma cat scared herself.

Pressed against my face, yet
Seeing those green eyes in the glass
Instead of me she ran off so fast they didn’t see her
Passing the pink girls who turned in,
Between Egyptian cotton sheets of papyrus,
But the alley cats silenced
And never once let a word out again.

Waiting for her,
But for me instead. Bottle fed and fatted
Unnaturally, all of us may never find a home
And the coats we wear
Are the coats of the pick pocketed and the poor.

All of us victims,
crying for food made from our mother.
But she’s not saving anything,
Not tonight—
The litter stole everything
Including her tongue.

Metastatic Cancer Awareness Day: 114 more will die

In the United States, 40,000 adults died last year from a particularly horrible terminal illness. The same critical disease queues up approximately 155,000 into a lemming line and eventually fall inside our graves. Remarkably, exact statistics aren’t available to understand how many people died as a result of metastatic breast cancer (MBC). Many of us lemmings in line, we’re not counted in the statistical data. For instance if you’re diagnosed this year with any stage of primary breast cancer for illustration purposes say 15 years later you’re one of the 30-40% who will eventually be diagnosed with MBC, you’re not counted in that number because you’ve already been put into the pool when first diagnosed with stage 0 and I-III.

Furthermore, if you’re “lucky” and you survive MBC more than five years and we’re diagnosed de novo (from the start) then there’s no formal tracking at least not in the United States. I suppose it’s not as interesting since it would sound less sensational to the pharmaceutical companies to track 15% give or take. Not many of us live five years beyond diagnosis – the majority die in an average two and a half years.

You bet I’m glad that we had one day. Wow! For those 30% who will find themselves diagnosed with MBC – the vocal metsers or metavivors have an entire day to explain what stage four metastatic breast cancer really means. To try to define the extent of collateral damage to our lives. To leave women (and men) with a better understanding of just what it means to live with an incurable disease. To hear these phrases over and over, “but you look great!” or the ever popular “you don’t look like your have cancer.” To have people who were once close you actually not believe your diagnosis. For family believe you’re actually lying about having MBC since you simply look too good to have any disease at all.

Just a lazy, early retried, government money sucker. I wish. No, I don’t wish. I do wish I were not laden with dense breast. The tissue in my fun bags is indistinguishable from the blood sucking cancerous tumors that started whittling down my life to a stump nearly five years ago. The years when the discussion was about indeterminate mammogram and ultrasound results. The years just before 3-D mammography might have saved my life. If you so happen to have dense breasts like I do, insist on more diagnostics and a physician who’s better at reading radiological results than the abilities of an average technician or your general practitioner. I wish I’d known more then. But wishes don’t often translate to reality once the blade has come down in the guillotine. My tumors weren’t large and still have no lymph node inclusion. It wasn’t law yet to notify women of their breast density. According to areyoudense.org

Adding more sensitive tests to mammography significantly increases detection of invasive cancers that are small and node negative.

I wish either sociopathy or borderline personality disorder were my diagnosis instead of invasive ductile carcinoma with osseous metastasis to the bones, liver metastasis, multiple periocentesis to drain asceites fluid buildup from my abdomen, and a nice size tumor that pressed on my duodenum and would not allow any food to pass from my stomach to my small intestines. My body is an amusement park for cancer, an e -ticket ride at one of the many Disney theme parks. This one is Cancer Land where the characters aren’t cute and they come home with you for the rest of your life.

I’m on my third line of therapy. Xeloda in 2015, Ibrance and Fulvestrant in 2018 and currently, and Taxol in late 2018 and the first six months of 2019. There’s still lots that I can do. I also take charge of my own health and my oncology teams. I’ve moved to a less stressful more peaceful place. But I’m lucky as I know many women do not have some of the resources of a partner as I do. But if you take one message from my day late post, insist on the right level of detection for you even if you are unlucky enough to wind up with a cancer diagnosis. It may save your life.

No poem this week. I’m a little down and I’m going to pick myself up as I have done every day by drawing. I’ve been Zentangling on every piece of paper I can find. It calms me and I keep my mind really busy when I need to – I highly recommended it. I couldn’t draw, either. But I can now. It’s amazing what we can do if we put our minds to it.

Is there a cancer personality?

Is there a personality type that is prone to cancer? Purportedly those who’s personality exhibit the following characteristics do have a higher propensity: highly conscientious, caring, beautiful, calming, responsible, hard-working and usually above average intelligence. One who exhibits strong tendencies towards carrying other peoples burdens. One who is deep seeded in their need to make others happy and be a people pleaser, often internalizes their emotions and has great difficulty expressing them. There’s also an adverse reaction to stress, which the person becomes unable to cope adequately.

If there’s a breast cancer personality then we women were blessed with it. I not only find the suggestion very sexist, but also very emasculating to men who receive a cancer diagnosis. No wonder most men with pectoral cancer don’t want to get diagnosed in the first place. It’s hard enough to deal with being a man with breast cancer. I imagine it’s like reading those waiting room questionnaires that ask if we have had testicular cancer but we don’t want to say we have balls. Pardon my sarcasm, but it’s meant to underscore the ridiculous way we treat gender specific cancers and how exclusive the club no one wanted to belong to really is.

If being a woman is the number one single characteristic that makes a person prone to cancer, then the second one far and away I’d say is our personalities, part nature and part nurture and a huge sprinkling of cultural influence. The pressure on women to have it all, the stress that goes along with it, as well as the nurturing qualities of great mothers everywhere become out crosses to bear. But most of us will not achieve everything successfully.

For your reading pleasure:

“Extreme suppression of anger was the most commonly identified characteristic of 160 breast cancer patients who were given a detailed psychological interview and self-administered questionnaire in a study conducted by the King’s College Hospital in London, as reported by the Journal of Psychosomatic Research. “Patients results are based on statistical comparisons between 69 patients found at operation to have breast cancer and a control group comprising the remaining 91 patients with benign breast disease. Our principle finding was a significant association between the diagnosis of breast cancer and a behaviour pattern, persisting throughout adult life, of abnormal release of emotions. This abnormality was, in most cases, extreme suppression of anger and, in patients over 40, extreme suppression of other feelings.” [http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0022399975900628]</p>

I’d love to hear your feedback on this very topic. I find it quite maddening, but other opinions are welcome.

Am I reading into this all wrong?

Is it Possible to ever cure Cancer?

Let me share my response to that night in the hospital when a group of medical experts told me I’d die within two to three months from metastatic cancer:
No, I won’t. Sorry but I don’t believe that’s true. Let’s get this fluid out of my abdomen and revisit your prognosis.
I’m still here four years later.

Will there ever be a real cure for cancer?

Statistically speaking, the numbers lead nowhere with regards to a panacea cure-all for cancer. Cancer in all of its forms, stages, intensity, aggressiveness, organ, system or body part, metastasis sites or primary tumor size and, genetic mutation, (deep breath) and what our cancer finds delicious to say “nom nom” to like hormones and cortisol to name a couple , are about as different from one person to the next as are the specifics contributing to every human being’s individuality.

Would you guess that may indeed be why a cure seems so out of reach: there’s as many kinds of cancer as the number of people diagnosed with cancer. I am not a specialist of any kind, medical or otherwise. But in the course of research and education there’s no denying that I’m lost in a sea of answers to so many different questions that I’m swimming in an ocean of data, drowning in an eddy of statistics and numerical analysis.

Throw me a lifesaving device or a piece of wood. Wood floats, as do witches, recalling the scene in Monty Python’s Holy Grail, where the medieval idiots guess at what would indicate if a woman were a witch or not. The one on the giant scales looking annoyed and rather silly having been disguised as a witch by the villagers by using a carrot tied to her face representing the nose a witch would have. Some days I feel like her, trying to scream out my innocence in the injustices I face as I’m asked what I may have done differently to not have been diagnosed at stage IV. Village idiots, indeed.

Let me ask this: how do we find a cure for cancer when the contributing factors include everybody’s permutation of lifestyle, environment, stress, genetics, psychosocial situation, economic status, race, nationality, religion, spirituality, etc.? Is the truth with regards to questions like “how long do I have?” found in researching and reading reports and data underlying findings from clinical and other types of studies?

I can’t say that’s possible since the relative weights of each contributing factor changes by person. Factors including not only the type and aggressiveness of the cancer itself, but the historically significant factors adding up to the moment of a human life when the words, “I’m sorry but…” are murmured. Given this set of cumulative influences, the prognosis differs for each individual, albeit sometimes ever so slightly.

Neither diagnosis nor prognosis is meaningful when you ask a doctor. A response to either intensity or time may contain the following phrase: the statistics show X, however, everyone is different. I’ve not heard one answer from an oncology, hematology, or internal medicine practitioner in which that caveat wasn’t kept in a box. I suspect it’s a CYA move to a greater or lesser degree. But I honestly believe they simply do not know, except for baseline statistical analyses with the outliers not plugged into the median mortality numbers.

Some people do not want to know how long they’ve got to live, and there’s nothing wrong with taking the ostrich/ head in the sand or cover your ears and hum “I can’t hear you I can’t hear you!” approach to a potential prognosis. And what does it really matter anyway? Other than the most frightening, or relieving, time comes that we’re told to go home and kiss everyone we love goodbye and to get on the phone to hospice. Perhaps then?

But maybe…

Even in that case each person is so vastly different in every way… lifestyles, genetics, responses to chemicals and radiation, how our immune systems can step up to the task, how damaged we were from the start and before the diagnosis, etc. Further still, the prognosis is even influenced by how one responds to the news. Again we have to weigh our ability to focus on what we can control: our psychological health; our physical health aside from cancer (such as nutrition, exercise, smoking, and drinking); our determination to live and try novel approaches without becoming brainwashed, or standing frozen like a deer in the headlights.

“This isn’t to say we’re not making progress: more people are beating cancer today than ever before. Survival has doubled in the last 40 years. And half of people diagnosed will survive their cancer for more than 10 years, an all-time high.” (Cancer Research, UK, “Why are cancer rates increasing?”
https://scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org/2015/02/04/why-are-cancer-rates-increasing/)

Progress, yes. But what more do we really know today if indeed the rates of diagnosis have reached an all time high? Indeed a cure may be a pie in the sky. Or a pie ready to hit us collectively in the face.