Befriending Dragons

Turn Scary Into Attainable


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Stupid Cancer – Survivor Spotlight Tonight at 6p

Stupid cancer. It can be a devastating diagnosis – even if like me you’ve “won the cancer lottery” and ended up with a very treatable breast cancer. In my case I’m cured – a couple of small scars, a bit of a fading sunburn on one side, and memories. I can no longer say I don’t have tattoos; I have three tiny “prison blue” dots across my chest as a reminder of my radiation treatment. Stupid cancer.

As a professional data geek I see lots of hope for the future of cancer diagnosis, prevention, and treatment. New “Big Data” technologies promise to improve the accuracy of screenings, speed up genetic testing, and improve the lives of those with a cancer diagnosis. Stupid cancer.

As an amateur community organizer and activist I regularly fight for human rights – gay rights, women’s rights, the rights of those who are being denied the opportunity to live normal lives for no good reason. Cancer denies people the right to live normal lives – I’m working to fit fighting for cancer survivors into my activism. Stupid cancer.

My mom died from breast cancer in 1997. One of the big surprises of getting my own breast cancer diagnosis was my sense of relief. I hadn’t realized how much I had been waiting for stupid cancer to happen to me. Heredity may only account for 5-10% of breast cancers but I apparently still had it in my subconscious that my mom had it so I would get it. The non-stop awareness campaigns sometimes seem to just make us afraid without giving us something concrete to actually do. Stupid cancer.

This stupid cancer definitely gave me a new perspective on life. Tune in to hear me talk about being a cancer survivor on tonight’s Stupid Cancer show at 6p MST: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/stupidcancershow/2014/02/18/single-fathers-of-cancer

“Bereavement from cancer is the one of the most difficult parts of dealing with cancer. Join us for tonight’s bereavement roundtable, where we talk to Justin M. Yopp, Ph.D. (Assistant Professor, UNC School of Medicine, Dep’t of Psychiatry) and Matt Herynk co-founder of Young Cancer Spouses about the coping with the loss of a loved one due to cancer. Survivor Spotlight on blogger Cindy Gross.”

To listen live, visit http://stupidcancershow.org

To subscribe to the iTunes podcast, visit http://stupidcancer.org/itunes

To subscribe via iHeartRadio, visit http://stupidcancer.org/ihearttradio

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Taking it Easy with Radiation

When I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer I quickly found out that I was going to have things relatively easy. In less than three weeks from my diagnosis I had a lumpectomy which removed a very small, low-grade tumor and almost certainly removed every trace of the cancer. This past Monday I started the radiation that will make sure any lingering microscopic cancer cells are gone from my left breast. Two small, neat scars from the surgery are the extent of my side effects so far. I might possibly have a little bit of mild short term fatigue from the radiation towards the end of treatment. I’ve had one week of radiation so that means I have 5 more weeks, 5 days a week, to go. The first five weeks they treat my entire left breast – they created the plan to be very directed and avoid my heart and lungs. The last week has a “boost” that focuses radiation just on the area where the .9cm tumor was. I see the radiation oncologist, Dr. Kuhn, every Tuesday right after the radiation treatment so she can make sure the treatment is going well.

Green Boots

My beautiful green boots!

On the first day of treatment I wore my green cowboy boots. Everyone from radiation check-in to the radiation techs raved about the boots. As a bonus they match the green hospital gowns they have us change into. It’s nice to have something positive to think about because walking past a waiting room full of people waiting for chemo treatments on my way to the elevator down to radiation can be a bit depressing. I feel guilty about having it so much easier than they do.

Radiation Room

The purple section rotates and is where the radiation comes from

The daily treatment is very fast and easy. Before my first treatment they put three freckle sized tattoos, literal pin pricks of blue ink, on my body. Every weekday morning at 9am I go in, lay face-up on a table, and put my hands on the handles behind my head (see the green circle on the picture). They move the sheet under me to get the laser on the ceiling to line up with the three tattoos so the radiation is directed at the correct area. Then the entire machine rotates – the section circled in purple ends up at an angle about a foot above my right side, facing the inside of my left breast. I hear some whirring noises for about a minute – that’s the radiation being dispensed. Then it rotates to be even with my left side, the radiation tech shifts the table a bit, and the machine whirrs again for about a minute. That’s it. I get changed from my hospital gown into my clothes and go home. Fast, easy, painless. It’s amazingly simple and the techs are very friendly and answer all my questions.

The hardest parts are getting there on time each day and not being able to wear deodorant or antiperspirant. I have to use their hospital grade lotion and increase my protein intake but otherwise my life is very normal. Everything is easy and my great circle of friends has been incredibly supportive! I’m very lucky and happy to be getting on with my life!