About two weeks ago, I finally got mad. I mean really mad. For the past 7 months, I haven’t had time to be mad. I’ve been too busy surviving surgery and chemo, etc, etc. But then I started to get past all of that and it hit me…over-whelming anger. All of this sucks. You don’t get time to contemplate the unfairness of your situation until long past your initial diagnosis. And I remember telling Sam sometime very early on, “At some point I’m going to get very angry about this and I think you’d better be prepared for it.” So, here it is…
The problem here is many-fold: who do I get mad at? what do I do about it? what am I really mad about in the first place?
I think the last is the easiest to answer, but I’m going to answer it with a question: Why the hell did I get cancer in the first place? I don’t smoke. I don’t drink (once a month isn’t considered drinking). I’m in good shape. I exercise. I eat extremely well, including being a vegetarian and a compulsive organic shopper. I had two children fairly early in life, both of whom I nursed for over 18 months a piece. And I have absolutely no family history of cancer, anywhere, for generations. Statistically speaking, I’m very low risk for getting cancer at all…So Why?
Well, a number of possibilities spring to mind, most of them having to do with the environment we live in, especially in the United States. It’s in the water we drink, the food we eat, the milk we were told was good for us as children – industrial chemicals. Even though I stopped buying non-organic food some time ago, the major risk factors associated with pesticide consumption happen during childhood, when concentrations are higher by body weight and the immune system is still immature. Though the US government won’t admit it, chemical pollution is probably at the root of a great many cancers in this country. I found a factoid online somewhere during my many hours of reading: Asian women triple their chances of getting breast cancer when they move to this country. Riddle me that. The amount of pre-menopausal breast cancer is on the rise and the government is not only not paying attention, they’re trying to slogh it off. Better detection methods, they trumpet. But most women don’t find their cancer through high tech detection…they find it putting on their bra to go out jogging, or in the shower, or leaning over to look in the mirror. Gagetry gets us next-to-nowhere. Hell, all the biopsies and MRIs and Sonograms and Mamograms I went through completely missed two out of the three tumors that were actually present in my breast. And I found the first one.
What do I do about anger? Well, apparently I wait. I talk to my therapist. I talk to my husband and my friends and my family. But mostly, I go find the little pink pills and wait it out. What else do you do? It’s not like I can go wallop someone on the head for giving me this awful condition (it’s not a disease – it’s not). I can rant and rave here and try not to take it out on my kids (bless them – they seem to react to me being stressed by driving me up a wall).
Who do I get mad at? Ah…this is the really tough one, I suppose. It’s not the doctors/nurses/support staff, though that would be easy. It’s certainly not my family and extended support network. In this, I have to become a conspiracy theorist, an anti-capitalist, a soap-box diva. I’m going to blame it on government, big business, and the bottom line. Because all three basically say, “We can’t fix the environmental problems in this world. It would cost too much money.” Well, for some of us, it’s costing a lot more…it’s costing us our lives.
My very helpful and informative oncologist, Dr. Sandbach, discussed my various extended treatment options with me the last time I visited the office. We determined that 2 1/2 years on Tamoxifen was the best place to start and he handed me a prescription. I took the prescription home and proceeded to stare at it for a week. I used it as a bookmark. I didn’t get it filled. Yes, yes, yes, I knew exactly what I was doing, but some part of my brain just wouldn’t allow me to get up and drive to the pharmacy and fill the silly thing. You see, I want to be done. I don’t want to be a cancer patient for the rest of my life. But in this, as in many other things lately, I don’t get a choice. Sam finally talked me into going and filling it and after actually having it in hand, taking it wasn’t really a problem, but I resent it.
Heaped onto all of this muck is the fun, fun, fun of still battling the mighty fungus (thrush) and the fact that yesterday I was diagnosed with shingles. Both of these happen to a lot of chemo patients. Your immune system is compromised, so the baddies move in. It actually helps to know that, otherwise I might be tempted to add persecution paranoia to my list of personal issues. But shingles sucks. Basically, you had chickenpox as a child and the virus stays on in your system. When your immune system hits rock bottom some of the virus moves up into the nerves near the skin. In my case, I have a little patch of spots (looks just like chicken pox) on the left side of my neck that started out being itchy, but are now very painful. The doc at CFM prescribed some anti-virals, which should shorten the course of the outbreak and keep it in check, while hopefully sparing me permanent nerve sensitivity in that area. And presumably, as I’m a fairly healthy individual normally, this will be the only outbreak I have and then it will be over. Knock on wood, spin three times and spit. My luck hasn’t been the best lately.