This coming Tuesday, August 2, 2011, with G-d’s help, I will undergo bilateral mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. May G-d guide the surgeons and medical team, along with my team of Street Fighters, and allow me a ‘refuah shelaimah’ so that I can continue my journey and do His mitzvot.
At nameless cancer support group meeting this week, I finally cracked. The social worker who sort of ‘guides’ the discussion finally realized that I had been oddly quiet. He knew I had impending surgery, and decided to just delicately broach the tender topic of my feelings.
“Miri, how ya doin’? You ok?”
I burst into tears. “I don’t want to live in Cancerland!” I screamed to a room full of people with various types and stages of cancer. (Need a little dose of gratitude? Listen to the hope in the voice of a person with Stage 4 lung cancer when they proudly announce the cancer hasn’t spread. You’ll sober right up.) Some laughed and nodded. But I wasn’t done.
“I’m not judging anyone for their course of treatments, but I can’t live in Cancerland! This is why I didn’t want radiation–I didn’t want to come to the hospital every day for seven weeks, then be exhausted and have to deal with radiation burns. I DON’T WANT TO BE A PATIENT! I DON’T WANT TO LIVE IN CANCERLAND!”
The social worker smiled at me. “Well, isn’t your surgery going to reduce your risk to almost nothing?”
I finally smile. The tears stop.
This summer has felt like an eternity waiting for my treatment for the Ductal Carcinoma In Sutu I was diagnosed with in April. I’ve had at least two doctors appointments a week since June. I hate being a patient. With G-d’s help, on Tuesday, I will be leaving Cancerland! Gotta say, I’ve been here before, and this place sucks. The price of lodging here is too high, and every time I stay, someone cuts something off my body. So I’m out of here. One-way, no returns, no riders. The Big Conductor drives the train, but I’m doing all I can to make sure I have no more visits to Cancerland. If you have breasts or know someone who does, please make sure they get regular mammograms.
To my Ashkenazi sisters: PLEASE be sure you get mammograms regularly and do regular breast exams. If you have strange pain you can’t explain, go to the doctor and demand an MRI. Holly Anderson of the Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester told me that the observant Ashkenazi community is an under-served population (my interpretation of her words, not her words, and I apologize if I misrepresent her words), yet one of the communities with the highest incidences of breast cancer. My Ashkenazi sisters, I tried marrying Sephardi to escape the specter of The Guys in the White Van, but cancer doesn’t care if you can eat popcorn on Passover! As far as I can figure it, breast cancer LOVES kugel, which is why the incidences of breast (and ovarian, lets not leave out the eggies!) cancer is so much higher in the Ashkenazi population than in others. If you are a cholent-kugel-knish-herring-chopped liver-ruggelach eating sister, take special care of your ta tas. The life you save will be your own.