Befriending Dragons

Turn Scary Into Attainable


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Diagnosis – Those First Moments of Breast Cancer

I wrote this Reader’s Opinion for the “Pink Edition” of the Idaho Statesman October 2, 2013 for Breast Cancer Awareness Month:

Do something. Anything. Make the cancer go away. What will I have to endure – will they chop off my breasts, make me ingest toxic drugs, poke me and prod me and stick me with needles and run me through machines? Quick; learn the difference between an MRI and an ultrasound and a mammogram – what does each really do, what does each detect, what kinds of false positives and false negatives might occur with each. This isn’t happening, it’s really a mistake. The test results aren’t really mine. Are they?

Keep Calm and Fight Cancer

Keep Calm and Fight Cancer

Deep breath. Of course it’s my diagnosis. And it’s mine to deal with. I can either panic (been there, done that – just a few seconds ago) and wallow in fear and pain or I can deal with it and move past it. Doesn’t seem like much of a choice, I guess I’ll deal with it.    It.    The breast cancer. I can fight it. I will fight it like a girl – proud and strong. I’ll overcome it. And I did. The cancer is gone. A little lumpectomy – done. A few weeks of radiation just in case there’s a microscopic cancer cell or two left over – coming in a few weeks with few expected side effects. Genetic testing – negative for the common breast and ovarian cancer causing mutations including BRCA. What a relief. I’m cured and I still have breasts that look pretty much like they did before. I’m done. I survived.

I took that fearsome cancer dragon and I turned it into something to live with. I didn’t do it alone. I have a great circle of friends who went with me to the biopsy and doctor appointments and pre-op and post-op…. They sent positive thoughts and showed they cared and they also knew when I just needed to be alone. I have a highly trained surgeon and oncologists and lab techs and nurses and even a nurse navigator assigned by the hospital. I work for a company that provides me with great insurance so I don’t have to worry about paying for all this wonderful medical care and the frequent screenings I will have in the future.

I am so lucky in so many ways. They caught my cancer early, I have wonderful friends, I asked questions and went back for additional screening after the initial false negative, and I have access to medical care many in this country can’t afford – though many more will get the care they need as more and more ObamaCare provisions are enacted.

You too can be lucky – take charge of your own life. Ask questions, take action, and be your own best advocate. Schedule your mammogram. Fight like a girl. Love your friends. Ask questions. Befriend your dragons. Help someone in need. Thank those who help you. Do, be, live, love, grow, change. And never give up.

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Curing Cancer with Donations

It’s natural to want to donate to something, to offer to help “fix things” when someone is sick or injured. But how do you pick who gets your time or money? Do you give to a local charity? One of the big names? Something directly related to and as specific as possible to the illness? Something general? I don’t think there’s any one good answer. Before you donate to anything, check them out on an independent site like Charity Navigator or Charity Watch. Make sure you search on the exact name as there are many look-a-like groups and some of them are completely bogus or donate just a tiny fraction of what they raise to their supposed cause.

KeepCalmAndFightCancer

Since my breast cancer diagnosis a few weeks ago I have relied heavily on a handful of sites. The big medical ones are the Mayo Clinic, American Cancer Society, and the National Cancer Institute. The first two do accept donations. I also got some great BRCA information from FORCE aka Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered. Another organization that has been incredibly helpful is Caring Bridge. They allow me to keep everyone updated from a central location. They rely on donations to help power the servers and run their website. From my past political experience (and as a Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest board member) I can highly recommend Planned Parenthood as a group to support in the fight against breast cancer. They provide funding for many women who otherwise wouldn’t be able to get a mammogram or other health screenings. Idaho is dead last in breast cancer screenings so that is clearly an area for improvement here. Again, Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest can help as they offer funding for Idaho women who need screening.

One group I do NOT directly support is Susan G. Komen. Not only did they recently falsely claim a long disproven link between abortion and breast cancer but they have some questionable practices related to prosecuting other groups that use “for the Cure” in their own fundraising efforts. They did quickly restore their funding to Planned Parenthood but the damage they did with their misinformation is long lasting.

There are other groups out there that aren’t doing research or treatment but that add a lot to the lives of those fighting cancer. For example, there are groups that provide free house cleaning for people going through chemo or other debilitating treatments, free scarves, hats, or wigs for people with hair loss from chemo, and low cost or free get-aways like weekends at a cabin or fishing trips. Many of these groups are too small to be rated by the charity rating organizations so find something local and ask around.

I won’t tell you who to donate to, but I do suggest you do your research and choose something you really care about. It seems likely you’ll have more impact with a donation to a smaller organization. Right now I’m thinking I may be donating more to the groups that provide screening and offer support during and after diagnosis and treatment. You may also want to think about a random act of kindness to someone in need.