Awareness of awareness...

Ironically, aside from the recent media blitz, there hasn't been a lot of cancer conversation these days. It's been a welcome respite. The irony of that is that we're right in the throes of Pink-tober, and Sunday is this year's Race for the Cure. For the first time since 2000, aside from they year I was out of town, I'm not running. At this point, we're planning on going down there and walking it. In many ways, I'm looking forward to that, as the run always stressed me out so unnecessarily. This way, we can just be amongst the masses, and I'm not racing against my own personal time clock and running into the same wall year after year - chemo or not. In other ways, I'm a bit apprehensive at being lost and overwhelmed in the sea of pink. But Sa and Liz went to Great Adventure and walked last year. Mom and Sa walked in NYC this year. Shel runs every year in NYC and this year did fundraising, too - with my picture on her homepage. Greg ran last year with a crumpled up knee - not to mention all that he does on a daily basis for me, with me, in support of me. This year, I can show up and walk and attempt not to get lost in the crowd.

I realize that the "one in eight" statistic pertains to a woman's risk of getting breast cancer during her lifetime. I've always comforted myself with the somewhat ludicrous thought that I have this force-field around me that will shield most of the people I love from being afflicted, since I've already taken the bullet. So far, it's worked. So far...

Then again, there's the woman from my office who I have befriended since her diagnosis. She's home this week recovering from her mastectomy, after enduring 6 rounds of A/C-Taxotere. There's the other unknown person that a co-worker said has been diagnosed but isn't ready to share the diagnosis with the world yet. There's the 34-year-old woman from YSC that I've corresponded with in regards to her training and fundraising for her first 3-Day in San Diego. She was just coming up on her first year after diagnosis, and instead of hearing good news, she found out her early-stage cancer with no node involvement is now metastatic. These people must have been outside the boundaries of my force field...

It's an interesting time of year... Breast Cancer Awareness.

I have seen paraphernalia in various places with the slogan
F*ck Awareness: Find a Cure.

Intrinsically, I don't disagree - there is absolutely nothing more important than finding a cure. A cure is vital. And truthfully, my eternally optimistic mind believes that it's feasible. I still believe in a world, one day, without breast cancer. I have to. But, we need that damn cure. Too many people have seen this beast take too many loved ones. Too many strong people have been incapacitated, either temporarily or long term. Unfortunately, it returns to haunt far too many people that had put it behind them - myself included. A cure is the ultimate goal.

The catch there is that a cure takes money. Research, development, clinical trials leading to the cure take tons and tons and buckets and truckloads of money. Without the bombardment of awareness that this breast cancer beast is such a problem, how the hell will we raise the money to fund the research to find the cure?

The people who have designed the F*ck Awareness: Find a Cure shirts aren't simply bitter, they are expressing their sentiments that awareness and early detection is great and all, but we need to reach beyond that. They are the ones, like me, for whom the awareness horse is already out of the barn and have become, like I have - experts on everything they never wanted to know. One woman told me,

"I want people to understand that my time is limited; I bite my fingernails nervously waiting for my treatments to fail me; I want to live to be 40, but I can't count on it. I think that merits an F-Bomb."
This is the same woman who has the following quote in her profile:

Frodo: I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.
Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.
It's not bitterness, it's frustration about the type of awareness that is needed and the fact that the term "awareness" doesn't necessary express what people REALLY need to be aware of - the fact that this is some serious shit. Not the people need to "know their bodies" early detection kind of awareness. I was detected early too. We need to spread the awareness that this is killing people. That it's not all pink and ribbons and pretty. I don't love that many people are aware of it only on a superficial level, and as much as the pink blenders, and ped-eggs, and toenail clippers, and ear hair trimmers make me cringe, they generate money. Maybe that is looking at it from a "sell out" perspective. I don't know. What I do know, is that I want that elusive cure, too. It's not about "saving the boobies", it's about saving the LIVES.

Komen for the Cure has a rally-cry of "I AM the cure!" It makes me cringe, and I'm sure I'll hear it Sunday.
I am not the cure. We're still waiting, and we need one.

I want to live to be 40, too. I'm counting on it. I realize how fortunate I am to be riding the wave right now. I'm all too aware that Stage IV, NED is an anomaly. I know that each scan could show that it's back. Many times it does deserve a whole string of F-bombs.

Dr. C ordered another quarterly scan. I suppose I had this idea that I would make it through until the end of the year without a scan and by default, be guaranteed to make it through both Thanksgiving and Christmas without any type of treatment, or treatment-related maladies. He wants to scan in November. Yes, I knew it was three months. I don't know why I thought maybe he'd let it slide. In the big picture? I'm grateful that he is so proactive with regards to scanning. In the small picture, just the inkling of a thought that I might not make it below the rim this year brought tears to my eyes. Realistically, I can't rely on the "what I don't know won't hurt me" concept in this case. So, when EVDI called, I scheduled the exam. Ironically, I'll find out the results after returning from the 3-Day. Greg has already promised me that we'll just find out even sooner that I'm still healthy. He was right the last time...

"I'm proud to be your doctor."
We actually heard that the other day. How many times does a patient hear that? Dr. C isn't one to blow smoke though - for the eight years I've known him, he never has been one to sugar-coat much of anything. I forget, sometimes, that my continued "remarkable" response is a victory for him, too. I can't imagine, as an oncologist, how difficult it must be to have to face patients upon patients and have to tell them that whatever the cocktail they had been taking simply isn't working anymore. I hope to be his ray of hope in an often dark world for as long as possible.

I'm still going to taste Thanksgiving. I'm still going below the rim. I'm still going to savor our bottle of Paul Hobbs on Christmas Eve. From what I hear, it's simply NOT up for discussion.