Metastatic breast Cancer in the time of Covid: Where’s Our Map?

Not to belabor the fine points, but these may indeed top the charts for strangest days ever. Think about this moment in time. Think about everything facing you and your family and just widen your circle to include the entire world. Think about having metastatic breast cancer during this time. The number of days I’ll live probably numbers more behind me than ahead. I am afraid of a shorter less healthy future of travel, hugs, and seeing more of the people and places to commit to my memories.

There’s no maps nor a clear road in sight leading us away to that first day when we can freely go anywhere. There’s no route mapped out to where we can inhale the first breath of fresh air. When will we head outside the front door for the first safe time? Can you imagine feeling the all-safe air fill your lungs, or the rain cooling your cheeks?

What a week.

Close your eyes and breathe like a meditation – breathe in, notice the small millisecond between your exhale – and inhale. That’s the moment of true presence the one we own, the control and letting go of control. It all exist right there and release your breath slowly as you can. Open your eyes, and while you’re still home remember as I try to, this like life itself is temporary. It’s what we make of our time in captivity. It’s also how we preside over our attitudes towards this unimaginable historical reality. We human beings created this mess when we destroyed our environment. Ahhh.

Heading into year two of the pandemic trapped almost everyone with a terminal or chronic disease and compromised immune system. If the past four years creates an historical record of this stranger world , it won’t look pretty. This time when our children hide behind virtual reality and video games to escape the odd feelings of lacking socialization. Covid replaces schools with homes during the most influential periods of their lives. They’ve learned to live without friends and school mates, camp and playgrounds.

This generation who have not known what it’s like to fold and unfold a big paper map. Or to carefully fold the map to the right page so you can hand it to your dad. I got the front seat as the first born and lucky me. We would either use a map my dad pre-wrote in where we’d stop and the route. Or we used a Tripatik.

TripTiks

Sometimes I drove to AAA, the American Automobile Association with dad and got our TripTik for the summer road trip. We’d sit down at a desk with a real live human being, and no one wore masks. Then with a drawer full of single paper roughly 8” x 4” maps taking us from point a to point z all across the United States and I think Canada.

Say we were going from Brooklyn to Acadia National Park in Maine, which definitely happened in July of 1977. At the local AAA that real person, behind a real desk who probably smoked, created a cool booklet. After a discussion of our route requirements, she hand bound with a spiral spring at the top to mimic the road ahead. The booklet or “ticket” of our road trip contained highlighted page over page in a curving line. The line led us over streets, highways, bridges, tunnels, country roads, and through state parks.

Yet best of all the bathrooms and restaurants and rest stops became signs of relief for a parent of a 10 and seven year old. As I recall the real person always used an orange colored highlighter. Then she handed us the booklet with its highlighted bound pages and went page by page, explaining the trip and all the interesting places along the way. And it took time. Lots of time.

But that was okay for vacations, because you could call from a telephone stuck to a wall with a long stretched out spiral cord attached to a handle that used an ear and mouth receiver. You could hang up angrily on people back then. What a satisfying feeling that kids won’t ever know. Then you ordered it in advance if you were in a hurry. But time was different in 1976 and going to get the map held the exciting buildup of our yearly camping trip with my dad.

Now kids know GPS and any of the map programs and apps out there that take the place of a drawer full of lifetime TripTiks. But the personal interaction of the invaluable AAA TripTik – a paper map that came home with writing all over the pages of what we might do or see in a particular place on our way. Never taking the straight fast way there we took the scenic route. We had a playlist on my dads home made cassette tapes and into his blue Toyota Corolla we’d go, me in the front seat as the copilot.

“Oh,our hearts are thumping, you, my brown eyed girl, you’re my brown eyed girl…do you remember when we used to sing…shah la la la la la, tee dah.” Van Morrison filled the car from the stereo and the open windows filled our lungs with fresh air. The car’s equipment didn’t contain seatbelts so I freely grabbed drinks for us in the front from the sturdy cooler in back. I can see my fathers unruly beard flying in the windy car. After the requisite resentment period came to an end and I quit frowning and uncrossed my arms we rode along joking and smiling.

Goin’ mobile.

Now the TripTik comes via a cell phone. Our cell phones produce electromagnetic frequencies or EMFs that bombard the divorced fathers and his offspring while their mother her much needed break from “the brats.”

My mother never thought much about why overhearing these calls might be the cause of the anger and resentment that inevitably took up the first days of the vacation to places full of tears and fighting. Those calls cut my skin laying the deep scars of a foundation for this cancer that’s part of me that my own body produced. Scars must fade if I am to go on for four or more years with metastatic breast cancer and become a full fledged cancer unicorn or an exceptional responder – a person who lives 10+ years with metastatic cancer with no real reason why they’ve outlived all the odds.

That’s my next goal. Yet, given how I feel today, I don’t know if I even want another four more years of these side effucks. I feel terrible.

My dad, or daddy or daddio as I called him, died of a mitochondrial brain tumor in 2013. Inoperable. We passed his 80th birthday this year without him. It’s very unlikely I’ll live to see 80, either. I’ll be thrilled to see a relatively healthy 60. As my mother always said, “you’re just like your father,” her New York accent dropping the “r” at the end of each word. I doubt she meant dying from cancer.

Did I love well?

When I’m dying from metastatic breast cancer I’ll only want to know one thing, as Frank Ostaseski said in a recent interview about his book The Five Invitations. That is that people loved me and “I loved well.” Ostaseski should know. He knocked on deaths door several times with heart attacks and a bunch of strokes. What a way to prove you walk the talk.

In a one hour discussion he gave me more of a framework to hang my forgiveness on than anyone to date. I highly recommend you get the audio book if your vision is blurring like mine or you want to hear the voice of a soothing zen master. Plus he knew Ram Dass. I turned to him right after my diagnosis, looking for meaningful words in a meaningless time.

Trash Talkin’.

Which brings me to this weird point in the darkest days I’ve ever known – days of uncertainty, fear, and isolation. I assume these demotions ring true to a degree, not just for those of us with metastatic cancer. “Hundreds of hopeful recipients camped out at rumored distribution sites only to leave without jabs. Untold numbers of unused doses wound up in dumpsters… #vaccine targets nationwide fell millions short.” (The Nation, February 8 2021)

Aren’t we worth more than trash?

And immunity from Covid 19 isn’t the only thing I have daily worried about on a regular basis. My own body certainly doesn’t make matters any better. After recent radiation therapy of which I refused my final four prescribed only taking six of 10, the tumor on my Lumbar 4 vertebrae no longer showed up on my scans. Yeah.

Well, what we may not be forewarned about is the damage to the soft tissue under the skin of our abdomens. I was told by countless people that radiation is a breeze compared to chemotherapy. Not for this wuss.

Now, for the second time since having radiation, I’m walking, well hobbling about with feet swollen and painful and my shins a bright yet angry looking clown-nose red to a well demarcated line just 1/3 up the way from my puffy ankles. The generalized infection called Cellulitis happens in immune compromised individuals. Yet as I dug into the research, radiation also damages soft tissue as it slices through one’s body, killing off lymph nodes. Because there’s nowhere for the abdominal lymphatic drainage to go for removal from the body you can think of this as leg lymphedema if you will. This, it seems upon some level of self diagnosis backed up by my oncologist is my root cause of cellulitis.

A map of my illness.

That’s the TripTik of how I wound up here at home, stubborn husband pissed off over a seriously misunderstood comment of potentially having to go to the hospital alone if my stomach didn’t cease to be so sore I couldn’t eat or think straight. In light of this please excuse the re-routs of this blog post. Your AAA road mapper for metastatic breast cancer isn’t herself this week. Charming. This condition could go on indefinitely or land me in the hospital for an average of 4.5 days under observation and on IV antibiotics as well as steroids.

Oh and I am beginning the bloat in my belly of ascites. If you’ve been reading along with the bouncing ball riding the Cancer Bus long enough, you’ll know ascites and I have been well acquainted for six years as of March 20th.

With cellulitis, the lymphatic system cannot drain from farther points in the body, either. These lymph nodes have not been surgically removed as with a mastectomy. Conversely they’re accidentally burned to death by radiation therapy.

However to a degree we can also blame Covid. I can’t see my oncologist for an in person check up very often. Thus, we won’t catch these physical ramifications in advance of the becoming a bigger problem. Roughly a month after the radiation treatments I received for a tumor on the inner side of my L4 vertebrae, the first inkling of cellulitis appeared. The infection created a painful and ugly foot problem.

On a video call with my palliative oncologist he was able to diagnose and treat the cellulitis with a visual look at my legs and feet as well as our discussion of my symptoms. Clear cut case of cellulitis. It’s normally treated with penicillin and lucky me, I’m allergic to penicillin.

Angry Infections

Wow, I remember it was quite an allergic reaction, too. At six years old I landed in the ER of Mount Sinai hospital in New York City. My dad racing me there in his blue Corvair, deciding which lights to run as he would turn to look nervously at me . Anaphylactic and red like a bright beet my throat closing up frightened me. It only got worse and worse, and I tested positive for allergies to sulfa drugs, too.

And several weeks later there I sat on a gurney in a brightly lit hallway at the same hospital where I was born on June 21st, 1965 at 8:26 am eastern time. I cannot remember very much before I turned seven. 1972, the year of my first vivid memory.

I do remember screaming in preop about to have my red, angry tonsils and adenoids removed. And it would seem penicillin treats red and angry infections. My legs are red and angry now and it stops at a circle clearly demarcated 1/3 up my shin. I woke up from a nap last week worried my legs might get removed as if I suffered from gangrene. It’s just a daydream, I told myself. Just a bad dream. I wish all of this were a dream too. Including the likely unjustified anger for being last in line for the Covid vaccine and why the non profits aren’t speaking up for their constituents is enough to drive me insane.

Let us be unicorns.

Will I be a unicorn and when does a metastatic breast cancer unicorn earn her horn? Let’s hope I may have the pleasure of still writing lovingly to you and to my friends and family. But especially for you who I don’t hear from but I know want to hear from me. Yet one day my words won’t come. I’ll have no control over whether or not my wishes will be carried out, including my final post after which I shan’t return.

My heavenly TripTik I’d like to think has an Orange highlighter, leading me to any such place close to heaven and not the hell. The kind of hell our world could easily become if we cannot steer this blue and white ship of fools harder and faster.

Cancer: It’s all in your head

This third week of January 2021 brought about change. The one we’ve sat in our homes waiting with a national- dare I say global – collective held breath for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to take the reigns out of the hands of a thief. After four ugly years of a petty loose cannon, from whom I hope never to see on the public’s big screen again. But hope is a fickle funny emotion. Still…

My small world, too, experienced a very strange week full of let downs and lift ups, full of mourning, and as a victim of public gaslighting in which the context did not distinguish itself until it took on a life of its own as the person exhibited classic narcissistic behaviors.I must have repressed response triggers dating from my childhood via my mother who herself had low level narcissistic personality disorder, mostly jealousy and selfishness mixed in with a sprinkle of well-hidden immaturity. We’d have celebrated her 80th birthday on the 31st had she not succumbed to Alzheimer’s.

Thick as a fog the sabotage took over the sunny afternoons in a healing circle I belonged to for the last four months. And healing happened in a very loving and kind, warm and receptive environment using Zoom. Zoom, the latest video group call application works fairly well as you can be a part of the Brady Bunch, yet with the ability to speak and with far better clothing choices. There’s no maid named Alice in a healing circle, but there’s the parallel of a kinder and gentler less misogynistic mom and dad roles in the Host and Guardian. All of this in the name of full transparency of course is available publicly through commonweal.org or Healing Circles Global. Nothing should have alerted us either since confidentiality outside of the circle is tantamount to its ability to achieve what it sets out to do.

A deluge of emails alerted me and all involved to the escalating circumstance that grew in dramatic undercurrents until I drowned in a tidal wave of someone’s need for recognition and to become the host. I was asked my preferred role – my email cc’ing everyone as requested of us basically said – either is fine, let’s see if it can keep its momentum and if not we can revisit in a few weeks. In a healing circle, each person enters a circle to be held in the loving arms of all participants. The roles of host and guardian no more and no less than having decent intuition, sharing of themselves as they choose as they’re there first and foremost for the same reason we’re all there. They also are adept in using prompts and asking questions, the guardian keeps time, and both insure there’s no cross talking or interrupting. It’s an intuitive role in that we use silence as a healing tool and to know when to call for a short one is up to everyone and anyone but that’s it. You really need to be sensitive and have a good gut for these things, I don’t purport to have either but I enjoy it and have had the fortune of some very wise women to bring out the emotional stuff that our strange days created a big bullhorn for all of our souls with Covid and being in lockdown, we need one another more than ever.

What really shook me and finally got a rise out of my emotional equanimity: she used my metastatic breast cancer against me. And of course this weighs heavy on my heart and of course comes up in my sharing. But I shall never speak for anyone’s decision to talk about what they will or whether it has a place in a healing circle or not. If I understand them correctly wherever there is healing there is a healing circle. It can be between one person and another it can be between 234 or 12. Certainly there’s a limit because time is short usually they run about 90 minutes. There’s no power plays. Everyone leads everyone helps themselves but does not try to help anybody else. We come to circle to fix only ourselves. Sadly our circle couldn’t hold as a result, and I won’t forget any of the lessons of the circle or the collapse.

It is in our heads, afterall

As the subject of this post indicates I believe cancer of all kinds – brain, breast, metastatic, inoperable, terminal – has roots in our heads. The psychosocial influences of stress on our bodies. Childhood traumas that cause fight or flight responses. The feelings of insecurity and basic need inadequacies that lead to less than fairy tale adulthood’s.

The fact is, reality of course is all in our heads. In many ways cancer is our personal reality. Cancer we know from long term studies, can be agitated from our cells into real tumors by psychological pain and suffering inflicted in childhood. In fact, listening to Breast Cancer Action’s most recent podcast, there are some incredible statistics on adverse childhood events, or ACEs and the incidence in fact is very much connected, enough to become concerned with my own health and its roots in my childhood abandonment by my father and later my mother.

In this recent January ‘21 episode, the guest, Dr. Barbara Cohn, found in her research some very compelling and statistically significant connections between emotional and environmental stressors during formative years on a woman’s propensity for breast cancer. Maybe it’s not as much in our genes but in our minds we should do a deeper analysis to find the root causes for what she found by way of looking at, for instance, women who lost both parents before the age of 21. I pulled my car over to take notes I was so dumbstruck by the evidence. Evidence that at a gut level I knew from the day of my diagnosis that my past had come full circle to try to take me down with it. Wherever my parents are now, I was surely headed too soon, but based in my reality I also felt it has as much to do with the other autoimmune physical problems that beleaguered my health from my first ulcer at 12.

In fact during my respites at the Cancer Help Program through Commonweal, through which I came to find out about Healing Circles (talk about circling the square this week!), healing our childhood psychological wounds to get to the bottom of not just the potential root causes of cancers but healing our souls to heal our bodies. This very concept is a focus of the week long cancer help program. It’s central to our life extensions as I find peace with and forgive both my parents and myself. The women who lost their parents to death I think likely mirror my own abandonment by both my parents before I turned 14. And here’s what the study found:

  • A 4 1/2 fold increase in breast density
  • A 24.5 fold increase in HER2 positive types
  • An 8.5 fold increase in de novo metastatic breast cancer

I encourage you to listen to the episode which you can find on their web site Breast Cancer Action .

My Father’s Daughter

There’s also the kind of cancer that starts in your head and will eventually kill you. The inoperable kind. The kind that my father died from 13 years ago. He would’ve been 80 today January 23, 2021. But he’s no longer here it was all in his head.

The surgeon couldn’t remove the entire tumor without encroaching on his ability to care for himself. Only able to remove half of his mitochondrial tumor my dad knew that I understood what he meant by being “unable to wipe his own ass.” I did. Yet he came out of anesthesia not in his own head. He became the antithesis of himself – mean, nasty, yelling. Everything I knew about him became moot for about two years. That was all in his head, too. My brother and father never got along well. That is before 18 hours with his skull opened up and brain exposed to the air, the penultimate in compromising the blood brain barrier.

I have a friend who taught me the differences between metastatic cancer and in operable terminal cancer. Both still can be in your head. Then there’s the kinds of things that are in your head that really bother you about having cancer. Knowing it’s in your body. Knowing in the case of MBC it can reach your brain. And Brian metastasis is one of the things that scares metsers most.Then there are the strange things about having metastatic breast cancer. It’s not wanting to tell people about your cancer or to talk too much about cancer. It’s deciding whether you want to use Twitter, or Facebook, or blog post, or Instagram, or Vlog, or any kind of social media to tell your story. Or perhaps you don’t ever publicly tell your story. That’s in your head as well for you have to determine how much you want to talk about how personally want to go and certainly how much you want other people to know.

That’s what my week was about. How much do I want other people to know?

In a support group you only hope that the environment will be, well, supportive. That the people in your group will hold your innermost hopes, fears, and dreams confidential. My confidence was broken this week. But as it turns out it was also repaired by people who truly care about my well-being. The person who broke my confidence was not a friend of mine. She was merely someone I knew that was in the support group that was called a healing circle. Healing circles are meant to be just that: when you are “in circle” you are there to see and speak what’s on your heart. What’s going on. It’s not just for cancer patients it’s for people with a beating heart -for everyone. This particular group focused on uncertainty during COVID-19. And that’s doubly difficult for people with metastatic cancer because in many of us are immune systems are in the trash. We can’t go anywhere, we can’t really see anyoneAnd it’s even difficult for us to get the treatments that we need, the life-saving treatment, the clinical trials have been canceled. But we have to stay positive don’t we?

And that’s all in our heads.

I attended a new circle today thats on writing through COVID19. We were given a list of word prompts and I chose “sanctuary” for my prompt. It  led to this raw, unedited poem. I am sharing this with you, dear readers, because at times we all must show the real self as what’s in our head and our hearts, just as it spills out onto the page. Unburdened by the need for perfection we find ourselves in the sense of what’s true and real and thus sacred. Allow no one, especially not for the sake of ego, rob you of your truth. This, as the Victor Frankl quote that touched me so deeply today and sits at the head of this blog post, is where the imperative to find deeper meaning commences. Sometimes sharing of ourselves in finding our own meaning we can join one another in finding common ground. Right now it’s as important if not more than ever to find common ground to heal our divides - between one another and within our own heads. Yes, it’s been quite a week, for me, for us, for our community. 

In each of us lives a kingdom of hope. But may no single individual or ideology become so self important as to rise to the level of a self proclaimed monarch again.


Sanctuary

My sanctuary
Our house holds all I love
Yet The door is open
For there’s always room
For more -one more, many more
Love knows no bounds
Love is my sanctuary.
My door is open
Although the world’s
Closed for now, anyway.

Every night
The owls ask who
Who are you
Who is home
Who is gone?
Every morning
The doves cry
Cooing in mourning
For those who have gone

The afternoons bring
Light casting long shadows
Through the crystals
In the heart of the home
The kitchen fills with
Tiny rainbows
Red, orange yellow, green, blue indigo, ultraviolet
Repeated and repeated
In attempts to draw for me
A time long ago
Or so it seems
That I could see the rain
Refracting the light
In the aftermath of
Storms. We’ve weathered
So many storms
Do you want to be
A new color?
Does the owl know
It’s brown and white?
Did the dove have any
Rejection of the black woodpecker
Making his way up the
Ponderosa pine
And wearing a headdress
Of a hunter?
Did she know he made her bed
Inside that tree?
If the mountain lion
Or the white tailed deer
Or my skunk, fat as he is wide
Only knew we were all so very afraid
Would they want to create
A sacred space
Or a sanctuary
Would the owl ask again
Who is it?
My doors remain wide open
Yet no one comes in
No one leaves
The spring led to fall
And we all missed the
Summer trips
We skipped the routine
And we all call in well
To work not sick for once
We are celebrating
Being well
Not a return from illness
Isn’t this the way life should be?
Cant I say it’s a beautiful day today
I’m calling in for my sanity
I’m not waiting until I lose it anymore
Can I fall on the ground
Out of breath
From dancing. My lab is
My living room my tools
The colors of the crystal
Refractions of the long
Fat rays of sun

Or so I could stand here and ask why? Why me? Why us? Why?

I prefer my owls quest to find out who I am.
I prefer the smells of the skunk
Who came to the open door
And waddles away with a bright red tomato.

Hope Shifts: COVID19 to Cancer

I begin and end with hope. Born, we hope to live a long life. We haven’t a clue as to the concept of “not being” yet. It’s hard not to think about the concept of no longer breathing: rising to the sweet smell of ion charged air after a spring rain. The concept of seasons hasn’t penetrated our small forms yet. Fascinating that the eyes never grow and at birth we grow around our big eyes. Can we see more as our unfettered brains not yet cluttered with fear, with not knowing how we may find another meal. We love our mothers. Maybe because she feeds us. Maybe our primordial love grants us the will to cry out in pain, in hunger, in loneliness. As we grow into full fledged human being do we also grow into beings of more fears?

The “fears that we may cease to be” as John Keats wrote so long ago in his poem of the same title at the ripe age of 24, he’d lived in a time when the average age wasn’t approaching 80 as today in 2021. Or perhaps we grow into our hope. Maybe we hope to find love come to dry our tears from our adult sized eyes. Maybe these eyes bring in the light of hope, like the leaves on a tree draw in the sunshine to grow the fruits and flowers. Our fruits and flowers as human beings, at least for most of us, deliver the nourishment of awareness of the good in the world. Some believe in using fear for gain. My world shrinks to nothing if I hurt even a spider. I cannot imagine the feeling of killing either by my own hand or through my power over the way others think. Like in war or in cults.

If it feels like a broad topic, and it may be, it’s personal, too. What’s eating the United States, and from what I’ve read and seen, the United Kingdom, from the inside? Those who we hired by vote to protect us continue to stand aside watching m violence to drip like sweat from the pores of rioters inside the capitol of the United States. My own eyes were struck with fear as I studied a photograph of a police officer whose hand sat on the back of a riotous angry white man. Outside of the picture, he then entered the speaker of the house’s office and sat with bravado and his feet upon her desk. Within 24 hours he was arrested and given a sentence of just one year. Yet, were a black man, I guarantee he’d be a dead man. Of this I’m quite certain.

Yet there’s too much fear to face the disease of racism in such audacious act of treason. A crime against the state. A crime punishable by death. I’m immoderately unsure he deserves such a dear punishment. The brainwashing and propaganda disseminated by the short lived current administration ramped up many without facts that support the arguments of an unfair, illegal vote count. There’s no evidence as such. My own eyes wept with frustration and fear.

The reality of the COVID19 virus and it’s newly transmuted much more transferable viral brother continues to plague the world – specifically the United States and the UK. The first world countries that quickly gave us the vaccines are also hotbeds of exhausted first defenders and maxed out hospitals. We live in counties, my own Nevada County included as of today, where beds in Intensive Care Units reached 100% capacity and makeshift tents hold the sick and ailing infected by the virus. It’s as though we’re living through a war on our defensible land. A land we never thought we’d need to defend on our own soil.

Breast cancer’s not preventable by a mask. Or by self isolation. Or by remaining alone dying the holidays for a year. But we do this in some cases not of our choosing but because we are treated as though we had COVID19 all along. Our concerns include isolation and uncertainty. The concerns people about of COVID19 too include isolation and uncertainty. Do we believe the lessons of the many will translate into the care of us, the few in comparison, with MBC no matter the cause, our skin color, of socioeconomic positions? No, I doubt it. So there’s a connection between Covid and cancer. We’re doubly afraid to become ill, to be ghosted by former friends and family, to be alone and uncertain as to when we will die? It’s not if but when although the incidence of MBC has shrunk by 1.8% according to the statistics.

This country, is the same in which my own cancer center cannot give me an approximate idea of when I will receive the vaccine. This country where as we watch, we become voyeurs of a kind of war I hope to never see again. I watch with the same eyes I saw my mother bring a spoon to my mouth full of bananas and apple sauce. Such a vast amount of time has passed since I came into being as the Vietnam war started to become a reality. One of my favorite writers probably described it better than anyone. Susan Sontag who wrote “On Photography” and “Illnesses as Metaphor” was

“…probably the most influential writer on the intersection of violence and photography, didn’t buy this argument. With forensic prose, she cut through complacent apologias for war photography and set photojournalistic images of violence squarely in the context of viewers’ voyeurism.”

Tejeau Cole, The New York Times Magazine, 24 May 2018

Have we become wide eyed onlookers, ready to lose hope and lives simultaneously as the country must be bribed with stimulus checks like pornography? Have we lost hope in our own ability to find the heavy sadness of mass graves holding the unidentifiable dead who were dropped off at hospitals and found themselves alone, miserable, and dying?

Such feelings of anger well up in my heart: if we had the ability to create vaccinations against a deadly pandemic virus so quickly, what about cancer? Why can’t we put the pharmaceutical community on notice right now and give them the ability to produce an injection against something we supposedly know so much more about? Cancer won’t cause an economic depression. In fact I argue we need cancer to prop up the economy as we require less outputs from the military industrial complex. Who needs to die now in order to inject money into a false economy of unknown and unseen wars? It’s not Iraq or Afghanistan. It’s in my bones. I’m one metastatic cancer patient is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars a year – I read one figure that a metastatic breast cancer patient brings the value of an oncologist to her organization upwards of $600,000 US per year. That’s insanity, statistically speaking. Take a few hours and read through gif following

American Cancer Society’s Facts and Figures 2020 ACS 2020 Fact Book – there’s an obvious problem from the outset. Cancer by definition is a pandemic not treats as such and in my estimation it’s because were worth so much to keep alive. If death is a protest I’d rather not participate. How will you protest our plight? Will our country be well enough to participate in the Die In this year? It do we stand by and watch as we die from what seems to be preventable except in 5-10% that are gene mutations from heredity – and even then is it possible to prevent those people from diagnosis? Here’s a nice neat list pulled together of facts in Breastcancer.org latest statistics:

  • About 1 in 8 U.S. women (about 12%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.
  • In 2020, an estimated 276,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 48,530 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer.
  • About 2,620 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in men in 2020. A man’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is about 1 in 883.
  • About 42,170 women in the U.S. are expected to die in 2020 from breast cancer. Death rates have been steady in women under 50 since 2007, but have continued to drop in women over 50. The overall death rate from breast cancer decreased by 1.3% per year from 2013 to 2017. These decreases are thought to be the result of treatment advances and earlier detection through screening.
  • For women in the U.S., breast cancer death rates are higher than those for any other cancer, besides lung cancer.
  • As of January 2020, there are more than 3.5 million women with a history of breast cancer in the U.S. This includes women currently being treated and women who have finished treatment.
  • Besides skin cancer, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among American women. In 2020, it’s estimated that about 30% of newly diagnosed cancers in women will be breast cancers.
  • In women under 45, breast cancer is more common in Black women than white women. Overall, Black women are more likely to die of breast cancer. For Asian, Hispanic, and Native-American women, the risk of developing and dying from breast cancer is lower. Ashkenazi Jewish women have a higher risk of breast cancer because of a higher rate of BRCA mutations.
  • Breast cancer incidence rates in the U.S. began decreasing in the year 2000, after increasing for the previous two decades. They dropped by 7% from 2002 to 2003 alone. One theory is that this decrease was partially due to the reduced use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) by women after the results of a large study called the Women’s Health Initiative were published in 2002. These results suggested a connection between HRT and increased breast cancer risk. In recent years, incidence rates have increased slightly by 0.3% per year.
  • A woman’s risk of breast cancer nearly doubles if she has a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Less than 15% of women who get breast cancer have a family member diagnosed with it.
  • About 5-10% of breast cancers can be linked to known gene mutations inherited from one’s mother or father. Mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are the most common. On average, women with a BRCA1 mutation have up to a 72% lifetime risk of developing breast cancer. For women with a BRCA2 mutation, the risk is 69%. Breast cancer that is positive for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations tends to develop more often in younger women. An increased ovarian cancer risk is also associated with these genetic mutations. In men, BRCA2 mutations are associated with a lifetime breast cancer risk of about 6.8%; BRCA1 mutations are a less frequent cause of breast cancer in men.
  • About 85% of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer. These occur due to genetic mutations that happen as a result of the aging process and life in general, rather than inherited mutations.
  • The most significant risk factors for breast cancer are sex (being a woman) and age (growing older).

In this I shift my hope again. I shift it to the general population and their eyes – the same eyes they’re born with and will die with to my and so many others bodies that have turned against us. Don’t look away. Don’t run when you become aware of a friend or a cousin with metastatic cancer. I leave you with a poem to describe my feelings in this matter.

Beaming with Hope

Hope Leaves on
Lemon trees fruits
Subject to yellow
So one tart section
Bites all the sun.
Drip juices ascetic
The most acidic of
The citrus
The gods gift to us
Coming forward to trust
The peel’s oil, metal rust
Can take the tin
Cans bring them all back
And then
Go hone a skill
And sip a little water from
My will.

I beam with a mess
Of healing light.
I received some, too
Today maybe the perfume
Left by a sweet
Mass, blood in a chalice
Quenched as
I dressed up like a goddess.
Secretly becoming
Scarred. Interested less
In hiding.
Can I remain in a nest
Like a red robed Robin
Born from blue
Shells that belie my lacking oxygen. On a beach
A great beam of
Might from
The lighthouse mirrors
Cut out a collage
Of media mixing
Flies and I file
Away the thinking
I can fix anything
Back anew.
Single file out into
A line we become one
Place where health walks heel to toe.
My place comes
Like everyone’s, eventually.
When can I conquer the enemies?
When does the line stop? What time Will it take up to heal the world?
We’re listening.
Without the next answer
Every green sings again
Every blue sleeps again
Every color clears again
Every hell
Finds its heaven again.
Open mouths breathe in to
Blow out the candle of our spirits.
Our lungs absorb – All the tears
Our hairless heads – All the rain
Our sore mouths – All the laughter
Our frail bones – All the power
Our thin skin – All the weakness
Our open hands – All the dealers
Our empty wallets – All the takers.
The gamblers and the monks
The grifters
The punks
And the lines of the me’s and the you’s
Lose all the freedom.
To know my soul
Existed before I boarded this train:
Crossing borderless countries
I am Aimless and unclothed
And I Break in my body.
There’s no optioning
No ownership
No forever
Not even a
Time share.
This time I cannot
Work to pay
All the rent.

As a spawn of the dead
A pawn of this life
For what I deplore
And who I defend
The punch
Line without any joke
Echoes in lustrous
love
And up in the
Attics unpacked
Into those dusty
rafters of hope.