During the past week, well-meaning individuals have felt compelled to give me their advice about Miri’s Choice. Two in particular stand out. However, because the nature of the conversations were so personal, I can’t go into the detail I’d like for purging purposes. Writing is a cathartic process, but, as I tell my students, be very careful what you post on the Internet! Your words can come back to haunt you. It is important, however, to note that both the conversations started with the three words I dislike most regarding my cancer diagnosis and treatment, those being, “YOU LOOK GREAT.”
Why would I dislike these words? Because every time I’ve heard it, there has been some sort of backhanded compliment. I know people have the best of intentions. I know I DO look great–much better than I have in a long, long time. That’s because the surgeons took the cancer that was making me sick out of my body. That helped me look A LOT better. My swelling dissipated within month. I lost weight. I went to Israel and started working out (well, walking) a little bit. But, I haven’t started my cancer treatments yet!
Someone told me that since I don’t look like I have cancer, I shouldn’t tell anyone that I did, not even people in support groups. In fact, the person said I should just keep it to myself and continue on like nothing happened. Since I look great, why change anything?
I patiently explained my Van Nuys Prognostic Index numbers to this person to show the seriousness of my disease. Oncologists consider four different categories when helping a patient decide on a course of treatment, with each category valued at 1, 2, or 3, with a total of 12. If your numbers are 4 or below, you are pretty safe with just a lumpectomy and can continue on like nothing happened (well, you’d need to monitor, I’m sure… and I’m not THAT kind of doctor, so don’t take my words as medical advice!). 5-7, they recommend lumpectomy, radiation, and Tamoxifen. 8-9 gets into mastectomy territory. My score was 7. I explained that what I had going for me were my huge margins. Since my numbers were greater than 50%, I can’t just have the lumpectomy and walk away. My options are mastectomy with reconstruction or lumpectomy, radiation, and Tamoxifen. I can’t take Tamoxifen.
“Can’t you just try it?” I saw this as a ridiculous statement. A medical oncologist told me I CANNOT take Tamoxifen–so no, since it could kill me, I can’t just try it. Just like I can’t just try radiation–angioedema can occur and last for years. Not something I want to have happen. And to be honest, while I seem very cavalier about cutting off my breasts and getting new ones, it scares the Hell out of me. I’d rather not have to do anything. I had an ENTIRELY different summer planned than one of surgeries.
“Why don’t you trust the doctors? Stop researching and trust what they say! Stay off the Internet! You don’t need to be an advocate for yourself if you trust the doctors!” Seriously? If I hadn’t advocated for myself, I wouldn’t know that I had breast cancer, and it would have gotten worse. If I hadn’t advocated for myself, I would have died from the allergens prescribed to me by a medical doctor. If I hadn’t advocated for myself, my voice would be silenced, and no one else would be helped by my story. I’m also sure there is more cancer in Lefty, something that must be checked with an MRI in the very near future. In fact, that was something else that fell through the cracks–I should have had an MRI after my diagnosis and didn’t–and when I told my surgical oncologist, she indicated one was necessary. Again, a reason I don’t trust doctors. They are fallible, as are we all.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” I have the perfect answer for this one–NO! I’m not sure I want to do this. I’d rather do anything but this! But if you give me the choice of this or have a recurrence within five years, I’m going to choose a new set of tits. No one can convince me that doing nothing, since radiation and Tamoxifen are out of the question, is the right way to go. I want to be around for my son’s wedding and beyond!
So yes, while I do look great right now, please remember I have not yet begun my treatments. If I were in the middle of radiation, I might not look as great as I do now… and I’m probably going to look a little rough after surgery. However, the life I save will ultimately be my own. And if you think I look good now, imagine what I’ll look like AFTER my treatments! Look out Cancer, you f’d with the wrong Jew!