Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Breast Cancer Action

I was honored recently to be asked by Breast Cancer Action to help them with their annual fundraising campaign.  At first I was hesitant, because as a blogger I value my ability to speak independently, and I wondered if such an association could somehow hinder that.  But since I have donated to Breast Cancer Action for many years, even prior to starting this blog,  I'm proud to publicly support an organization that I admire, trust implicitly, and whose values align with mine.  

My essay "I refuse to quietly succumb" is featured on BCA's Think Before You Pink blog, and explains why I am a regular donor to this worthy organization.  If you are pondering a year-end donation, I do hope you might consider Breast Cancer Action in your plans. 

There are also other charitable organizations listed on this blogs right side bar which I invite you to explore, particularly those dedicated to metastatic breast cancer research and support and listed under "Metastatic Breast Cancer Resources".  


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Favorite Things

Last year, in a fit of seasonally inspired writing, I put the breast back in Christmas, and counted down my favorite Breastmas gifts.

This year we're doing things a bit differently, and I'm taking a page out of Oprah's book and counting down my Favorite Things.

1. Love Stoop

This is a dish my MIL invented to keep Beloved and I in easily-prepared nourishing meals whilst my appetite is MIA, and fatigue and gimp hand keep me out of the kitchen. Essentially empty the contents of your vegetable drawers and canned goods into a pot, add a couple of Brontosauraus-like meat bones,  and some good stock, boil and simmer, pour into containers and freeze.

Uh-oh I only have 4 containers left.
Better get MIL on the case
2. Udderly Smooth Udder Cream

Legend has it, this is the same cream used to keep cows udders healthy.  Mmmm not too sure where to go with this, suffice to say this has been the best moisturizing cream for hands and feet in my entire cancer career.  Buy it by the tub at your local pharmacy.

How nice and smooth does gimp hand look?

3. Spirometer

I literally suck on this thing at least five times a day.  It keeps my lungs exercised and inflated (as opposed to collapsed), avoiding the need for an Operating Room date with Dr Cuteness.  I love this thing.

Suck harder!
4. Snoods

Certain bloggers have been keeping me in artisanal snoods (and gloves!).  They keep my head warm, look cool, and allow me to moonlight as an "Occupy" protester.

Striking a strangely Freudian pose
5. Elasticated Waists

I have a gimp hand.  I challenge you to try and pull up a pair of jeans, pull zipper and fasten button with one hand.  Remember with bathroom breaks you'll have to do this several times throughout the day.  Enough said.  Elasticated waists are the bomb!

Perhaps not my best look!
6. Panini Press

The best thing since sliced bread for the one-handed cook.  Not only panini's but also chicken cutlets and little steaks.   Love, love, love and everybody gets panini presses!  No, sorry that was a joke.

Between this and Love Stoop we are well fed!
7. Miralax

I've said it before and I'll say it again for those of us dealing with Mr Constipation.  Miralax, in the convenient economy size, has literally saved my ass.  Do yourself a favor and add this item to your walk-in medicine closet.

You know it makes sense.
8. Dog Naps

Always at my feet under the desk.  Snoring a little, farting a bit, dream kicking his little legs........

My trusty sidekick doing his bit for the war on breast cancer
9.  Breast Cancer Social Media

Tune to Twitter every Monday, at search term #BCSM, for breast cancer topic-oriented chat with an amazing group of people. And all the other wonderful Bloggers and Commenters who make up this incredible virtual community.  I can't do this without you.

10. Beloved

What more do I need to say?

I Heart Beloved

Merry Christmas
Happy Holidays
To You All

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Bird Is Free

The State of New Jersey has finally given up its state secrets on drivers with disabilities, and I am behind the wheel once more.

After undergoing a formal assessment from a state-licensed driver evaluator who are housed in occupational therapy facilities in major hospitals, and who are rare as hen's teeth by the way,  I was declared medically disabled but able enough to receive a prescription for adaptive equipment for my car.

Having lost the use of my left hand, my only option is to drive one-handed.  As a result I was unable to operate the indicator doovelacky on the left side, although the use of indicators seem to be optional for most NJ drivers anyway, she says with tongue firmly in cheek.

So now, as you can see from the photo, there is a metal contraption that attaches to the indicator on the left side, which then crosses over the back of the steering wheel, allowing me to operate it with my right hand.

The steering wheel was also fitted with a turning knob so that it's much easier for me to steer with one hand.  It takes a little getting used to but no major accidents yet so it's all good.

It's taken a long time to get this little bit of freedom back and it feels great, although I'm sure I'll be sick of driving again in no time.  MIL's pretty happy too that she's no longer Driving Miss Daisy.

Now all I need to work on is being able to flip the bird with my spare gimp hand.  A must-have skill for for handling the extraordinarily polite New Jersey drivers.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Breast Cancer and Middle School

My original intended purpose for this blog was to be an observer  and commentator on all things (breast) cancer culture, in a way to try and make sense of my own experience at the same time.  It still doesn't make sense by the way.  Today's post is going back to this blog's roots and asking some tough questions, so I'd ask that you suspend your emotions and read the entire post before commenting.  And please do comment, because I'm very interested to hear your thoughts, whether you agree or disagree.

This article appeared in the December issue of one of our local magazines, The Journal. It's about a local middle school's efforts to raise funds for a local breast cancer organization, Breast Intentions, that provides financial assistance to women in need who are going through breast cancer.  In fact, the charity they support was founded four years ago by two local fifteen year old high school students, an admirable accomplishment indeed as well as a worthy cause.  It seems clear that the purpose of this story was to congratulate these middle-schoolers on their fundraising accomplishments, as well as supporting the good work of the beneficiary charity.

And for most readers, the feel good story would stop there.  Well done kids!

But, of course, I see things a little differently.

Middle-school involvement in the pink breast cancer movement, be it fundraising events like this, education programs within the schools, pink ribbon decorations, flags and signs, or indeed civil liberty legal actions to preserve students' First Amendment rights to wear "I (heart) Boobies" bracelets, certainly seems to be increasing, as does the associated media coverage. Rather than making me feel good, it's making me a little queasy and rather uneasy.

Firstly, I'm uncomfortable that breast cancer, the disease, has been elevated by slick marketing to a status that screams to the general public that it is far more important than other major killers of women, like heart disease or lung and other cancers.  (See

And in reading this article I couldn't help thinking about all the kids, who took part in the pink parade in their tie dyed pink shirts, and whose parent or other significant person, was at home suffering from some other kind of cancer or catastrophic illness.  How did these kids feel about all the attention (and money) being paid to breast cancer?  Did they have a voice?   Were they able to express their feelings of discontent and frustration?  Did they even think about it?  I really wonder.  Do the schools have fundraising events and parades of this scale for other Health Observances? What kind of message are we really sending to these middle schoolers?  That breast cancer is the only disease that matters?

In my limited research of this topic, I came across several charitable organizations that offer education programs for adoption by both middle and high schools.  Here's an example of one program offered to Wisconsin schools by an organization called the Breast Cancer Family Foundation.

This particular organization educates young people on the premise of "proven risk-reduction strategies" that apparently may prevent many types of cancer, "not only breast cancer".  The program, specifically aimed at breast and testicular cancers, focuses on "self-examination, diet and lifestyle".  

Whilst I can certainly see merit in encouraging kids to maintain a healthy lifestyle for all manner of reasons and to be aware of their own bodies, but to suggest that these are proven ways to prevent breast cancer is just not evidence-based.  The point being that we still don't really know exactly what causes breast or other cancers.

I'd make the same point about self-examination and early detection.  These are methods of cancer diagnosis.  They don't prevent or cure cancer or categorically save lives.   So why are we pushing breast cancer education curriculums that have little scientific basis to school kids?  Where's the value in that, other than perpetuating the cycle of misinformation all in the name of pink breast cancer awareness?

For the horsey girl in your life
If this is indeed happening on a wide scale in schools, then I hold grave fears for the future generation of breast cancer activists.  Indoctrination to the pink party line is starting earlier and earlier.  What's next?  Breast cancer programs for kindergartners?  Don't laugh, I don't think it's beyond the realm of possibility at this point, and we already have the toys!

On another note, in the U.S. there's an ever present debate about the extent to which there should be a mingling of church and state, particularly within the public school system.  Readers,  I put it to you that now we have the mingling of breast and state within schools, for better or worse.  Whilst I applaud any school's efforts to encourage altruism within their student body, and I fully support including cancer as a topic within any health education curriculum, I'm uncomfortable with schools' elevating breast cancer to this pink extent.  As Ronnie Hughes of the Being Sarah blog, so eloquently put it;

"Pink's not wrong. It's just not right enough."

And that's the problem.


So what do we want middle school kids to know about breast cancer, or cancer in general?  What do they need to know?

Is it right to popularize breast cancer over other cancers and diseases within the public school system with events like the one in the article?

Is this even an issue?

Please comment, I'd love to hear your thoughts.