Saturday, July 02, 2005
Reminders, Requests and Robert Frost
In the last year I have had friends refer me to ten women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer that want to talk to someone "who has been there." When I get these calls, I am happy to help out and show my support. Anyone who has gone through cancer knows the importance of that voice of wisdom and understanding that can only come from someone who has shared the same experience. For me, two of my cousins provided that wisdom and I was extremely grateful.

When I get one of these calls, I almost get winded. It takes my breath away that so many people are impacted by breast cancer. I know the statistic. Every two minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer. I know the shaky voice and the feeling of despair expressed as I talk with a new breast cancer sister. I first thing I always say is, "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry you have to face this right now." And nothing could be more true. I go on to tell them all the wonderful statistics such as if the cancer is confined to the breast only, the survival rate can be as high as 95 percent. I tell them not to worry about the treatment until they know exactly what they need especially since we have come so far medically in controlling the side-effects. I try to get them to laugh if I can, I share my resources for wigs and hats, and tell them they can call me anytime. Mostly I just try to reassure them that surviving breast cancer is more than simply possible, it is probable.

When I hang up the phone, my heart is heavy. I know what they are facing. Fellow blogger, Cancer Baby, expressed this same feeling in a recent post. And while there is so much hope associated with breast cancer, it is still cancer. Cancer. That devious, joy-deflating, life-stealing bastard. There has to be a way to eradicate it. There must be a reason why in 1960 breast cancer incidence was one in twenty and in 2005 it is one in eight. What are we doing to our environment, our diets, our water supply, our food supply, and life style?

There is something simple we can all do. I have been in the blog world for a year now (Where has the time gone? besides the time spent researching and writing of course). If you have been reading this for one year, (wow -- one year -- I'm not sure if you deserve some expression of appreciation or a free ticket to a psyche ward) it means you have been reminded every time you enter this site to conduct your monthly self exam and it also means you have had your annual mammogram (if you are over 40 or younger if you are in a high risk group). If you are a male reader, it means you have reminded the women in your life to perform monthly self exams and get annual mammograms. If you have done neither, all I can say is don't let me know or you will personally get my wrath.

Another thing we can all do. Chances are that we all know someone who is either undergoing treatment or recently gone through treatment for breast cancer. Take a moment to say hello, make eye contact, and ask how she is doing. Don't try to avoid her because "dealing with cancer is just too difficult" for you. Take a step out of your comfort zone. I guarantee you that living with cancer is ever more difficult. She will likely spend more time consoling you and making you feel better than the reverse.

Finally, I have a favor to ask. There is another fellow blogger who is one of the most witty, expressive people I have stumbled upon in the blog world. Her name is Rae. She is a young woman who is facing the wrath of ovarian cancer and it seems a lot is crashing down on her all at once. She is scheduled to have shunts put in her ears on Sunday to relieve the fluid build up that is right now causing deafness. This is on top of chemo after chemo, kidney failure and dialysis, and everything else she has had to face. She is amazing and faces it with humor, sarcasm, and wit. Please do stop by and leave her a note and wish her the best. She deserves a break and all the love and kindness the world can send her way. Thanks in advance.

I don't want this post to be depressing. When I had my first appointment with my medical oncologist, I asked her why she chose this field. Her answer was, "Because there is so much hope." She is right. There is hope. We have come so far on this journey.

But I have promises to keep.
And miles to go before I sleep.
And miles to go before I sleep.
--Robert Frost

Written by Jeannette Vagnozzi
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Name: Jeannette
Location: Southern California, USA

This is my story about being diagnosed with breast cancer at age 39. I thought I was out of the woods, but four years late it came back. This is my quest to be a two-time survivor.

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