I feel the need to cross-post a comment and expand into a post of my own. This is in response to another blogger on the Living Beyond Breast Cancer blog. The post is titled
This entry was written by Randi Rentz. In this piece, Randi vividly describes the competition that lies between women who are diagnosed with various stages of breast cancer. Is there a need for competition in the first place? Is your breast cancer really worse than someone else’s – considering that breast cancer takes a toll on any woman emotional, whether you’re in stage 1 or stage 4.
Do you find yourself to be competitive in spirit, especially when it comes to sports, kids, education, social status or occupation? If so, you haven’t been in competitive company until you’ve participated in the game, “Breast Canceropoly.” What’s that you ask?…..“Breast Canceropoly” for some is a game of luck, strategy and people skills. How can your opponent get an appointment the next day after her diagnosis with a top surgeon while you wait weeks? Can it be she has connections or the luck of the dice? When some women are busy getting appointments with every doctor in town, others take to the internet, and may wait a few days before making any contact in the medical profession. Is that a strategic maneuver; to one-up the opponent? Maybe.
The people skills element needs to be captured in this game, too. For instance, I was very chatty with people in the radiation waiting room and wanted to measure up to my contemporaries, but deep down, I was quite bloodthirsty with all the other women who were waiting to be nuked. There was a woman who was on my radiation schedule who discussed her weekend hiking in the mountains in the Poconoes.
Hiking? So what? I talked about shoes, politics, LIFE, my awesome boyfriend. As in I have a life that is not breast cancer that can be discussed because THAT is reality. Not trying to be a bitch about it, but what is so strange about that? It was a nice distraction waiting to be zapped to hear about the magic of ordinary days.
I got excellent care because I listened to my doctors and took charge of what testing I needed to get done and made it happen. I wasn’t going to wait any longer than I had to when diagnosed – I wanted the shit out of my body. Yes I am incredibly lucky to have the doctors and surgeon I have and I think that is partially because I learned to stay on top of my own care and find doctors that were right for me. I did not waste my time wondering why whomever had whichever doctor, I did what I had to do to take care of me and learn. (the down side of course were those nights I had dreams of angry pink and red breast cancer surgical illustrations but I lived.) Someone is always going to have another doctor, be richer, be poorer, have better hair, new car, whatever – that is all part and parcel of the human condition called life in general.
I have met all sorts of survivors and there was no whiff of cancer one-upmanship. I found a rather unique sisterhood.
The problem I have is with the people who feel free to tell me EVERY horror story with tamoxifen, which I am getting ready to start now that I am through radiation.
Every cancer is different and the people who are survivors with whom I have spoken are wise enough to know the difference and say so. I have found amazing and positive support from within my community and circle of friends. (i.e. The Driving Miss Daisy gals, etc) I have purposely stayed away from those who can only dwell in the negative or make it all about them.
I mean I have kooky things happen like people who don’t know me at all who said ridiculous things like I should not do radiation, all I had to do was eat asparagus. Asparagus might be a super food but it’s not the True Beam machine. Or the guy who pretended to be concerned but wanted in fact to sell me some wacky potion. And the calls from fake breast cancer charities claiming they would pay my bills if I gave THEM money. But realistically, I figured some of this would happen when I got diagnosed. But the one-upmanship? Maybe I am just lucky, but no.
I will note, however, I chose to build my own support network because I found a lot of the support groups I checked out were too negative and I wanted positive.
And maybe, just maybe I got through it o.k. so far because I was willing to be honest and talk about it even in moments of the not so positive. I also took the time to pay it forward. Even on days that I still have post radiation where I can barely crawl, let alone walk. This is not a fun process, but sometimes we just have to grab on and try. Trying counts.
Incidentally, there were days I did not want to walk or exercise at all but except for a couple of days here and there I tried to do something and meditate (although never trained to do that I gave it and all that visualization stuff a whirl). You know what? I felt better. And on the days when I am just a cranky bitch my friends, family, and sweet man cut me enough slack to get it out of my system and then hold me accountable.
I also find it irritating the people who constantly try to sell me pink-themed crap. Rubber bracelets do nothing for me.
Breast cancer is not a solitary event although it is happening to me personally.
We are all different. And I am o.k. with that. And we’re all a long time dead.