Posted in cancer, know better do better, mindset, motivation, physical health

Rock the Pink?

The Climbing Daddy, The Kid, and I went to a Phoenix Mercury game over the weekend. It so happened that it was “Rock the Pink” night. I was not excited.

They honored breast cancer survivors, which was nice, and every seat had a pink Rock the Pink rally towel on it. Pre-recorded interviews with some of the players were aired during halftime and, much like the overwhelming majority of breast cancer-related PR, it made me angry.

I’ve said this a bazillion times and I’ll say it a bazillion more: early detection is not prevention.

Repeat after me: early detection is not prevention.

Early detection is not prevention.

Getting a scan doesn’t prevent breast cancer. It begins a diagnosis.

There are a few cancers that will give you some benign heads ups before turning cancerous. Breast cancer isn’t one of them (as far as we know).

With early detection, you have cancer. You’ll have one or more of: surgery, chemotherapy, radiation; you’ll acquire all of the accompanying baggage.

If you’re lucky, you’ll only have tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills. (I had really good insurance when I went through mine, but the totals were around $250,000.)

You might lose your memory, your mobility, your fertility, your friends, your spouse, your job, your energy, your hair (and other facets of your appearance, some of which don’t recover). And, since early detection isn’t a guarantee, at the end of all that, you might still lose your life.

You’ll lose peace of mind.

Weigh that against prevention.

Prevention is inconvenient because carcinogenic things are cheap, easy, convenient, tasty. Preventative habits are not the norm in the US, so they’re cumbersome and require solid planning to maintain.

But there’s no surgery, chemo, radiation; few potential negative short- or long-term side effects, and I’m stretching for the examples I can think of.

It’s worth it.

(And it applies to all the cancers, not just breast cancer.)

Posted in cancer, connections, ebb & flow, thoughtfulness

Thinking of you

When someone dies, those close to the deceased have an onslaught of well-wishers.

When someone is diagnosed with cancer or another critical health issue, they have a similar herd of well-wishers.

When someone has another unfortunate life event, they have immediate help and concern.

The thing is … the support dies off well before needed (and is often overwhelming in bulk).

If you know someone who is three or four or nine months or a year or two years into something that you would have sent flowers for at the onset, send flowers again. Or initiate a visit or phone call (depending on proximity). Or send a card. Or a care package.

You’re not going to “remind” them that they suffered a loss or are sludging through an unfortunate chapter in their life. They didn’t forget. It just seems that everyone else did.

Go. Reach out. Make someone’s day.

Posted in cancer, education, mental health, mindset

Aggression

In my masters program, I had a class on group counseling. It was one of the most interesting classes I’ve ever taken.

A tiny slice that I remember: in talking about group therapy, you can put depressed people together and they don’t amplify each other’s depression. You can put anxious people together, and they don’t amplify each other’s anxiety. But if you put aggressive people together, they amplify each other’s aggression.

This is churning through my brain lately on several levels.

Micro:

We have some aggressive kids at school. If there are, for example, five aggressive kids in 4th grade and there are three fourth grade homerooms, what do we do? We can’t separate them all. If these types of kids (people) don’t function in a therapeutic environment together, how can they function (or thrive) in an academic environment? How is a teacher, who is not a trained psychotherapist, supposed to manage them?

Macro:

We have some aggressive people out and about. It’s more and more seemingly acceptable to be aggressive, and to meet aggression in kind. How are we supposed to make America great again [sic] if we’re just escalating the fighting? Compounded by aggression being considered valuable or desirable in many circles…

I tagged this post under cancer because aggression is spreading like one, and killing us like one as well…

Posted in cancer, mindset, thoughtfulness

Wishes of a cancer patient

The post that is going around (again) about cancer patients having only one wish—to kick cancer’s butt—is short-sighted and shows a lack of understanding of what cancer patients go through.

Of course cancer patients want to beat cancer and go on to live a healthy life. (There are people with cancer who refuse treatment and accept that it will eventually kill them, but they typically don’t want to live through the awful side effects of the treatment, rather than actually not wanting to go on to live a healthy life.)

To address the rest of this meme…

A cancer patient who has gained 30, 40, 50 or more pounds as a result of treatments probably wishes to be thinner.

One who has become skin and bones as a result of treatments may wish to be bigger.

The countless who are uninsured or underinsured or were fired from their jobs as a result of diagnosis wish for more money. (Heck, who among us is not wishing for more money?) While I was going through chemo, our house had foundation issues. You bet I was wishing for more money. (Or maybe a house without foundation issues.)

A cool car? OK, maybe you got me on that one. Though I’m certain there are plenty of cancer patients who would still love a sweet ride.

Every cancer patient wishes for a day off. A day off from tests, treatments, appointments, surgeries, blood tests, scans, anxiety, fear, looks of pity, inane comments.

A new phone? Depends on what kind of phone you already have, I suppose, regardless of the presence of a tumor.

A single cancer patient still wishes to date the person of their dreams … and fears that with a cancer history (and all of the physical and emotional baggage that comes along with it), it will be impossible. And cancer patients whose spouses leave them because of their cancer wish for the person of their dreams as well.

You know what I hated when I was going through chemo? The assumption that now everything was about cancer. It was as if I had become cancer instead of just acquired it. That nothing else in my life existed for the entire 8 months of treatment (but then that the cancer never existed once treatment was over. Odd juxtaposition.) This meme really supports that notion, which drives me bonky.

How can everything else simply stop existing?

Sure, it’s possible for your priorities to change. Looking at a potential death sentence can do that to you. But you still care about other people (and have wishes for them). You still care about other things in your life. You still want to look nice and pay bills with money left over and play with gadgets. You’re still a person.

Posted in cancer, connections, mental health, physical health, vulnerability

It’s not you, and you can’t fix it

I wrote yesterday about things that people said to me during my cancer journey and in the time since (though one could argue that it’s all the same journey).

I wanted to talk about it a little more.

I don’t think people are intentionally being mean or dismissive or any other unpleasant thing.

I think people are trying to protect themselves, to give order to events where there is none, to relieve themselves of guilt for it not happening to them, to relieve themselves of the discomfort of “what the hell do you say to someone who was just diagnosed with cancer?”

(I can help answer that last one. Will get to that but not going on that tangent yet. Also, all of this applies to all sorts of sudden life unpleasantries, not just a cancer diagnosis.)

Our brains’ mission in life is to keep everything predictable which makes us comfortable. This is why people who are miserable with their lives don’t change—they’re comfortable in their misery. Change is scary, and what if it’s worse on the other side? The demon you know versus the one you don’t kind of situation.

So when we’re handed something that immediately provokes change, we don’t like it. So we resist (consciously or not). And offer platitudes to the person/people who are at ground zero so we can feel better about ourselves and our position in life and shrug off how close it came to being us.

Is there a growing number of people who “need” cancer to learn a lesson, or to grow, or to change? No, I don’t think so.

Are there plenty of people who go through it and come out the other side without having learned any positive lessons, without having grown, without having changed for the better? Yes, there are.

And of course, there are plenty of people who don’t come out the other side.

It’s nearly guaranteed that you’re going to be at the center of a horrible little universe one day. Whether a medical diagnosis, the death of someone close, financial ruin, something, someday is going to knock your legs out from under you and kick you while you’re down.

While I don’t advocate for worrying about it, I also don’t advocate for blowing off other people’s pain to help you ignore the possibility of it showing up at your door.

For another day, you’re not at ground zero. It’s not you.

Is it awkward and uncomfortable to be with someone in that space? Yes. Yes, it is.

Do it anyway.

Your people need you. Step up. Be brave—just by showing up.

You can’t fix the problem.

Once more:

You can’t fix the problem.

You’re not going to say something that magically makes them feel better about their situation. But you can make them feel better for this moment. Be present. Be real.

What do you say? I’m sorry. That sucks. When do you want/need company? What meal can I bring you or your family? (Or, if you already know what would be welcome, What day can I bring you xyz?) When do you need me to watch your kids? Give me your grocery list and let me take care of it for you. Let me come over and vacuum (or dust or clean bathrooms or do laundry) so you don’t have to worry about it. I know it feels weird to get help with things you’re used to doing, but please let me help you so you can take care of you. I can’t kill tumors but I can wash socks and watch kids.

Depending on the person, maybe they’d just like to have conversations about other things. Maybe living with this and talking about it as much as is necessary is enough, and they’d like a bit of time back in normal life. Maybe they’d like to play a game. Cards, or a board game for few players.

Find something to help them pass time when they’re alone. Puzzles, magazines, a subscription (Netflix or similar) if they don’t already have one (even I would have watched TV through chemo). Books if they can read (I love reading but couldn’t get through a paragraph of a book because: chemo brain). A journal and a nice pen. Tools for a skill maybe they’ve been wanting to learn: knitting, crocheting, playing an instrument, drawing, painting, etc.

And then—a few months later, when most people have fallen off (because life events are longer than attention spans)—check in again (if you haven’t been all along). Same offers. New offer. Whatever. And then again.

Any questions?