Ahh #Pinktober. Ask most women who have had the disease, and who are still in treatment for the disease how they feel about a month-long barrage of cheap pink marketing ploys and they will tell you they dislike the farce.
I am a very lucky six year survivor. But my nouveau reality is not pink and fluffy.
First of all, it’s the fact that breast cancer is expensive. It doesn’t matter how good you think your insurance is, get a cancer diagnosis and get on the hamster wheel of endless or endless feeling medical bills. After a while you begin to wonder if anyone covers anything and what have you been paying for every month you pay your health insurance premiums?
Secondly, breast cancer is a time eater. It is a crazy time consuming time sucker. Doctors’ appointments, treatment, physical therapy if you need it for say lymphedema, etc. You begin to want to neglect other appointments like the dentist, etc because you feel like life is one big doctor’s appointment.
But you persist, because the alternative involves not being on earth any longer and giving up. Giving up is not an option for me. But today I am tired, and I am going to lay out some of what else I feel.
I am actually so tired a lot of the time. This crap some days still sucks the life out of me. I am cancer free but six years into a ten year script of Tamoxifen. Radiation gave me osteopenia. As per WebMD:
Osteopenia refers to bone density that is lower than normal peak density but not low enough to be classified as osteoporosis. Bone density is a measurement of how dense and strong the bones are. If your bone density is low compared to normal peak density, you are said to have osteopenia. Having osteopenia means there is a greater risk that, as time passes, you may develop bone density that is very low compared to normal, known as osteoporosis.
What does this have to do with Tamoxifen? Well because of the side effects of aromatase inhibitors meaning a potentially greater risk of things like actual osteoporosis, they kept me on Tamoxifen once I was in menopause (first chemically induced, then insured forever by a full hysterectomy a couple of years after breast cancer surgery.)
Tamoxifen has been the lesser of drug evils but not without issues. I used to sleep. Now it is a struggle. Irritability and mood swings. Inability to concentrate and you do not retain as much as you used to – menopause brain with Tamoxifen ribbons. And flirtation with baseless depression some days. I say baseless because I know nothing is wrong, but it is like I can feel this fog creeping over me. And I have to work to shake it off. Being positive has never come completely naturally for me. I have learned through just being grateful to be alive to be more positive. But some days are just a struggle.
And weight gain. Tamoxifen gives me what can only be described as what women who experience pregnancy hunger cravings. Between first the progestin they put me on BEFORE my diagnosis after 35 to control the ovarian cysts, fibroids, and horrible ungodly periods and Tamoxifen until a few months ago, all I did was gain weight. Along with the weight gain is a messed up digestive tract. I actually think radiation is the culprit there.
I was never a fat person growing up. I always had appearance issues and was never pencil thin, however. It wasn’t in the genes for me. What was in the genes however, were some of my mother’s obsessions. I love my mother but I grew up in the shadow of an image and weight obsessed mother. A few years ago I started to actually fight back against it because every damn conversation at some point turned to either women (a) who let themselves go or were (b) fat according to her.
Breast Cancer hits the female psyche in so many ways, but probably none more so than causing poor self body image. I have been no exception and it has been hard, so hard.
First there is the big old part of my left breast which was removed due to disease and the stage two tumor that was too damn close to becoming a stage three tumor. I have made my ultimate peace with that as I am not a candidate for flotation devices, err fake boobs. But some days I am quietly in tears in the mirror. I am so damn lopsided. I am alive but feel like I have Quasimodo breasts some days. And pre-cancer, I had enviable natural breasts. The kind women pay lots of money for.
But I am alive. That is what I have to remind my ego of the I am not 25 years old anymore person. But it’s such a pain in the ass. Bras hurt because left side tissue is so gone and continues to settle. But I can’t go bra-less or I look like a woman from the hills of poverty.
The weight gain has been very hard. It is slowly starting to reverse because of the physical therapy I had to start post knee surgery. I am still doing physical therapy. And I am working my ass off literally and slowly. I realized partway into therapy it was one of the first things I had really done for myself to change the status quo in years. I was so tired after surgery and treatment that I just stopped everything. It was easier to just be tired. But now I know I can’t allow that tired to take me over.
I am blessed because just as I have had the most amazing cancer care team, my knee surgeon knew just who to send me to for physical therapy. My therapist doesn’t just let us sit there and mark time. He motivates us, pushes us, tease us, cheers us on. He has gotten me moving. Slowly the weight is coming off.
And I am so damn proud of myself some days. Yet…some days the evil twisted whispers of poor self body image creep in. The funniest thing that hardly anyone says anything. Sometimes but not often. Truthfully now is the time I could use an atta girl or two. But I guess I wil have to give them to myself.
So when us lovely survivors see the glitzy and glossy marketing campaigns during “Pinktober” we aren’t rah-rah about it. We’ve lived it. Cancer is not pretty. It’s not pink or fluffy. It’s not a pink cardboard box of cookies, or a crappy pink rubber bracelet.
And we have zero respect for the companies that capitalize on a disease that may have killed us given half a chance, and which has claimed many we have known and loved. Pinktober with the endless cancer commercials makes me vibrate to the point of panic some days because all I hear is cancer, cancer, cancer.
I am lucky to be here to be able to write this. I know that. And I have some friends who live with Metastatic Breast Cancer. They are my personal heroes. We as survivors and patients come in all shapes and sizes, most of which really aren’t trendy and Hollywood. It’s real and it can be raw. Be supportive, but please understand when I say some days you have no idea how this feels.
I realize this post is a lot to take in. I used to love October, but now part of me dreads it. I wish people would rock more fall colors and less pink garabage.
Is it November yet?