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January 17, 2012: Breast Cancer

I have a friend who recently discovered that she has breast cancer. She won’t know how bad this is until she gets the results of the biopsy. All she knows is that it’s bad, really bad. She’s begun doing research, and is now weighing her options.

As do all women in her situation, she’s going to have to make some hard and fast decisions. In other words, be very proactive about her health care choices. In one way, she’s lucky. Having breast cancer isn’t like having a brain tumor, where one gets to the point in which they must depend on others to assist them in being proactive. However, it may

iPad painting

get to the point in which she gets so weak and sick that she will be dependent upon others for an assist.

Her options may include having a mastectomy, radiation treatment, and chemical therapy. It seems odd to us both, that the latter involves bombarding the body with toxic chemicals in hopes of eradicating the offender cells. It’s a matter of using some kinds of toxins to kill other toxins. It makes no sense at all. The phrase, white man’s medicine comes to mind.

This makes even less sense to those like my friend, who is very knowledgeable about good nutrition and eats well. And she does not drink, smoke, or do caffeine.

My friend is considering alternative therapies, of which there are many. She has limited insurance, with a very high deductible—and anyhow, most insurance companies won’t cover non-traditional types of treatment. Scary to think about all the roadblocks one encounters in attempting to deal with such things.

It’s a sad state of affairs. Those who have immediate access to information and good health care are those with good insurance and/or a great deal of money. If you don’t have this, you are sent to the back of the health care line. I can’t believe we live in a country where this is now a truism. It didn’t used to be this way. It’s an outrage.

I’m learning from my friend that there’s a strong and vibrant network out there, one in which women are helping other women make what for them, are the right choices. This has nothing to do with the pink ribbon bullshit, which serves to promote the idea that those who have breast cancer are victims, and also panders to corporate greed. Rather, it’s evolved out of empathy and concern. My friend is just now tapping into this, and starting to figure out what to do next.

Still, some days are tougher for her than others. Last night she told me in a matter of fact tone that she went to the local hospital, where she had a biopsy. After, she went out to her truck, and discovered that the battery had died. There she stood, with an icepack on her breast, waiting for someone to give her a jump start. Hearing this story, I wondered—just how tough does a woman have to be?

Next: 43. 1/18/12: Adventures with Ari