11 Jul 2012

Pink Ones

It's time to re-visit the subject of the Pink Ones - the ones with breast cancer, the ones who are possibly at risk of developing breast cancer - what that means to us - Teal Sisters, and equally, if not more importantly, to our families.

My mother died of breast cancer - what kind of breast cancer, we don't know.  I have ovarian cancer.  This combination automatically qualified me for genetic testing - a search for the two common breast cancer genetic defects BRCA1 and/or BRCA2.   These two defects are just the more notable ones - there are many others.  The results of my tests concluded that  I do not carry these two well-known defects.   The geneticist was so incredulous of the results that he ran the tests twice - causing me to stew for six months.  My husband came along to the final consultation as there wasn't a doubt in my mind that if the genetic testing had come back positively, I would have opted for an immediate prophylactic double  mastectomy.  I was counselled that just because I didn't carry the classic faults, didn't mean I didn't carry ANY breast cancer genetic defects.  Because of my mother's death from breast cancer, what was emphasized was that my results did not preclude any of my siblings - male or female - or their children from being carriers of the BRCA1/2 or any other breast-related genetic defect.

I know, it's heavy stuff - but ignoring it isn't a good idea either.  I had my annual breast examination last Thursday and sat in the waiting room beside a fifteen year old boy filling out his forms - yes, boy breast cancer. 

When I lived in Montreal, I was a patient at the Montreal Breast Clinic - specialists in breast cancer prevention, early detection and treatment.  Because of my mother's history, I was considered "high-risk" even though I did not have ovarian cancer at the time.  Each visit included three things - a mammogram, a breast ultrasound and an infra-red/thermographic imaging test.  "What's that?" you say.  Here's the info on it - the first I've seen it in print in years even though the test has been around for decades:
It saves lives - it is harmless - it's non-invasive - it penetrates dense breast tissue and provides very early detection.  My breast oncologist is one of this country's strongest advocates in adding thermography to every checkup and has reams of evidence of it's capability of pre-cancerous diagnostics.

Why am I bringing this up on an OVCA site?  As I said, just because I don't carry the classic breast cancer genetic defects, doesn't mean I'm not at risk of developing breast cancer.  I'm hearing about so many women with ovarian cancer who are now also dealing with breast cancer.   And no, it's not a "two for one special" where the same chemo can take care of both things.  It is loaded with it's own traumas - surgeries, tubes, chemos, radiation and possibly reconstructions - to name a few.    

A breast MRI is the closest thing to infallibility in detection but is not available on demand. It is expensive, uncomfortable and obviously carries a powerful whack of radiation.  We OVCA girls are over-dosed on radiation as it is when you consider the number of CT/PET scans we go through on an annual basis - coupled with the odd ER X-Ray and layer on a breast MRI?  The combination can potentially cause spontaneous lymphoma.

To my Teal sisters and all women - why not approach your PCP or oncologist and discuss the addition of thermography to your annual routine?  For families with a history of breast and/or ovarian cancer, genetic testing is a start, heightened surveillance is a definite must. 

And to you guys - just to provide further impetus for getting yourselves checked - the risk of prostate cancer is 2x higher with a family history of breast cancer.

5 Jul 2012


The Beatitudes are defined as the 8 blessings made by Christ during his "Sermon on the Mount".  They are the rules of appropriate behaviour which supposedly gain you entrance into heaven.  They all begin "Blessed are..." and then are followed with an instruction. 

The Beatitudes are a good guideline, but how about coupling them with the The Be-Attitudes - forgetting all that business about peacemakers, the meek and the mild?  The Be-Attitudes should read much like the Declaration of Independence and be an automatic entitlement to all cancer patients, their family and friends, giving them the right to rant and rave in the face of so many failures - failure to detect, failure to treat, failure to cure. 

There were two new posts on Inspire.com this week from family members who are trying to cope with a relative dying from ovarian cancer.  It isn't pretty - it isn't a Disney scene - it's how we pass.  Be-Attitude.  Don't try to cope.  It's OK to rail against sporadic disease and it's more than OK to cry.  Be-Attitude.  Bravery is often a cheap facade masquerading fear - it isn't courage that is needed - it's the relief of honesty.  Be-Attitudes are a necessary step for all of us in finding acceptance.

True to my own convictions, I had one of "those" sessions with my oncologist last week.  It was a very hot day - he was wearing a short-sleeved dress shirt.  Before leaving, he put his arm around my shoulder, smiled and said "these sleeves may be short, but I've still got plenty of tricks up them!" 

Be-Attitude - for you shall be rewarded...in this case, with a reassuring message and a comforting hug.