Update: Make your own!—XJ
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in December, 2011. In January 2012, I began treatment. Chemo, surgery, radiation.
When I finished 6 weeks of daily radiation, the last of my primary treatment round, I tweeted about this milestone and my friend Michael Pusateri said I deserved a medal. Well, Michael's the kind of guy who puts a medal where his mouth is: he made me one. I love it, and I am grateful and proud. I want to wear it every single day for the rest of my life.
Read the rest
Recently, GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney told members of the Columbus Dispatch editorial board
, "We don't have people that become ill, who die in their apartment because they don't have insurance. We don't have a setting across this country where if you don't have insurance, we just say to you, 'Tough luck, you're going to die when you have your heart attack.' No, you go to the hospital, you get treated, and it's paid for, either by charity, the government or by the hospital."
Many of us who have cancer laughed and shook our heads. Yes, people in America do die because of lack of health insurance, and because having health insurance is not a guarantee that you will receive affordable care.
In an opinion piece over at HuffPo, Wendell Potter, former insurance industry PR guy turned whistleblower and author, writes:
Romney is absolutely right, people who are uninsured don't have to die in their apartments. They can indeed be rushed to a hospital, and the hospital is obligated to treat them. It's what he didn't say, and likely doesn't understand because he simply can't relate to 47 percent of us, that is actually more important: many of the uninsured die in the hospital, in the emergency room, because they could not afford to get care earlier when it might have saved their lives. Instead of going back home to their apartments, many of them, unfortunately, go to the morgue.
More: Romney's Talking Points on the Uninsured Are Like the Ones I Wrote When I Was an Insurance Industry Flack. Read the rest
Via my fellow breast-cancer-traveler @hellojomo
, who's waiting on word from her oncologists about her own cancer scans, sad news that a photographer, mom, sister, and fellow person with cancer has died
. Her name was Jen Burgess Thompson
, and she had ovarian cancer
. This beautiful video portrait
was created by her friend Benjamin Edwards. Read the rest
Marijuana is currently classified in the US as a Schedule I controlled substance: no medically accepted use, despite ample evidence to the contrary.
Ira Flatow's syndicated public radio program Science Friday has a segment out about next week's planned arguments to a federal appeals court by pro-pot advocacy org Americans for Safe Access, in hopes of relaxing federal restrictions.
The radio segment includes UCSF oncologist Donald Abrams, who speaks about the evidence on the medical benefits of pot.
Disclosure: I'm a cancer patient, I use pot for medical purposes, and I'm strongly in favor of legalization and easier access for seriously ill people (and honestly, who cares, everyone else too).
HT: @milesobrien Read the rest
Comedian and writer Tig Notaro was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. On the Oct. 2 "Professor Blastoff" podcast, she announced that she has undergone a double mastectomy, and there is currently no known cancer in her body. She also spoke about her experience on "Fresh Air" this week.
I note that a number of news outlets are reporting about her post-treatment (?) phase as "cured," or "cancer-free," and wince at that language because the disease is never that simple, and those terms imply something that we hope for but cannot guarantee. But it sounds like her course of treatment was successful and that she is in an excellent place.
Via fellow funnyman Louis C.K., who has had great success with direct-to-fan commerce, Tig's now-legendary set at Largo about her cancer diagnosis is now available for download.
I am not glad Notaro has cancer. But I am glad people with cancer now have someone like Tig to point to all that is laughable, and all that is darkly humorous, about the experience of being a person with cancer. Read the rest
, a writer and cancer advocate whom I met over Twitter during my treatment and now look to as a cancer mentor of sorts, writes about how to move beyond Pinktober, Pink Nausea, Pinksploitation
, and the branding of a disease. Enough "consumerism masquerading as research, flawed studies, and misinformation about breast cancer," she writes. "We need to ditch the machine, redefine and be realistic about pink." Read the rest
I can't manage to type how I feel about these Komen "for the cure" Marvel Comics breast cancer themed comic book covers
because I'm too busy vomiting. And, not from chemo. (The Mary Sue) Read the rest
In Marine Times, a Gannett newspaper targeting people in the Marine Corps and their families, an article for "Pinktober" (pink-ribbonny breast cancer awareness month, bleargh) about the high rate of breast cancer among men and women in the military. There are a number of theories as to why the breast cancer rates are so high, and a cluster of the disease affecting males at Camp Lejeune are a particularly vexing science mystery. "Researchers with the CDC are preparing a study that will try to determine whether contaminated drinking water at the Marine Corps’ largest base on the East Coast caused dozens of male Marines, sailors and family members to get breast cancer." Read more: Alarming breast cancer rates among troops (Marine Corps Times). Mother Jones covered this in a recent issue, also. Read the rest
Jody Schoger, writing about
a rare instance of a TV show getting the cancer experience right: "Most women diagnosed with breast cancer aren’t feeling sick to begin with. They walk from the land of the well into the land of the bald, the nauseated, the medical record number, the breastless and the reconstructed. Then they are encouraged to stay positive about all this, as if failing to do so will somehow impede their survival. Think about that. It makes no sense." Read the rest
Cancer survivor Lani Horn, who helped me through some painful times during my cancer treatment, writes in a piece for kveller.com about anger, justice, and the search for deeper meaning in the Jewish holy days. She talks about a moment of clarity during a workshop for survivors, where she witnessed much talk about "making meaning out of the cancer experience, deepening our gratitude for the ordinary, becoming more compassionate." Snip:
After losing my brother, two breasts, and almost three years of my life to illness and hospitals, I was over these platitudes. I stood up to speak. “This is all fine. I get it. But my problem is that I am mad at God.” I even talked about the Unetanah Tokef, which had been a grueling part of the High Holiday liturgy since Jeremy died. Who shall live and who shall die?
A surge went through the room. I had uttered the unspeakable. Afterwards people came up to thank me for my honesty. One was a hospice chaplain, himself a cancer survivor.
“Remember,” he said, “there is a such thing as holy anger. Think of the prophets. Anger can be a spiritual feeling.”
For the first time, I did not feel like my anger separated me from God. It was an honest description of my relationship.
Yes, I was angry. Who shall live and who shall die? Why him and not me? And why him at all?
Read the rest: Rethinking Who Shall Live & Who Shall Die (Raising Kvell)
(Image: Dad's Grave's Broken Headstone at the Jewish Cemetery in Mumbai, a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike (2.0) image from Avi Solomon's photostream. Read the rest
MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas is today launching the Moon Shots Program
, "an unprecedented effort to dramatically accelerate the pace of converting scientific discoveries into clinical advances that reduce cancer deaths." The program is backed by billions of dollars in funding, and there is some controversy around
the money and the science. The program will initially target eight cancers, and will bring together sizable multidisciplinary groups of MD Anderson researchers and clinicians to mount comprehensive attacks on acute myeloid leukemia/myelodysplastic syndrome; chronic lymphocytic leukemia; melanoma; lung cancer; prostate cancer, and triple-negative breast and ovarian cancers - two cancers linked at the molecular level. Read the rest
After some four month of silence on Twitter, Kathy Bates returned to share news that she was diagnosed with breast cancer two months ago, and has undergone a double mastectomy. I felt an extra-strong twinge of sadness when I read Twitter replies from her fans wishing her a "speedy recovery." I get that line a lot, too. There's no such thing. Read the rest
Science blogger Ed Yong whipped up this awesome graphic and made me a one-off tshirt to wear to radiation treatment for breast cancer.
Cancer patients, radiation oncologists, radiation therapists, and the people who love them all can make their own t-shirts and stickers with the JPEG if you are so inclined!
Read the rest
Catherine Baucom, a breast cancer surgeon in Louisiana, was on her way to a surgery at BRASS Surgery Center of Baton Rouge last Wednesday morning when she found herself caught in a complete traffic shutdown caused by a major accident. She handled it like a boss: the surgeon, who is also a cyclist, borrowed a pink bicycle and helmet decorated with Disney princesses from a nearby friend’s 7-year-old daughter, and she pedaled like hell.
Dr. Baucom remembered a friend that lived a few blocks from her position in the mayhem and made her way to his house. "Catherine called, she was outside my house. She said 'Hey do you have a bike?' I walked outside and said yea, its a kids bike," said Dr. Brian Barnett. After a quick test run, Dr. Baucom decided the bike was her only choice to get to the hospital. "I got the air pump out and aired the tires up as much as I could."
He gladly loaned her his seven year old daughter's bike and helmet and the nearly six foot tall surgeon resumed her journey to the surgery center.
"It was hot pink and small," Dr. Baucom said, describing the bike. "The helmet was pink with princesses." He added he was laughing so much he couldn't get video of her before she peddled away. "But she did utilize the plastic basket on front, to put her cell phone in. Showed her experience with the bike."
Police stopped her, then when she explained what was going on, they escorted her to the hospital. Read the rest
[larger size.] Chicago-based comic artist Laura Park (@llaurappark) was recently diagnosed with thyroid cancer. She underwent surgery in June, and illustrated the moment she opened the first big bill in July.
I know that feel, bro. I know that feel.
(via Emma Smith) Read the rest
My boyfriend Miles O'Brien lost his beloved little sister to breast cancer today. She was only 46 years old.
They both lost their mom to it a few weeks after I was diagnosed with the same disease.
There is so much to say about what a beautiful soul Aileen was, what a cruel and ugly and brutal disease breast cancer is, how torturous treatment is, how enraging it is that science and medicine have nothing better to offer us yet, how unjust the financial devastation a diagnosis brings to so many women is—and, most of all, what it means to those of us with cancer to have the kind of support in our lives that men like Miles provide, selflessly and heroically and with unconditional love.
But for now, I just want the world to see, respect, and remember this photograph Miles took of his sister this morning, shortly before her life ended. He brought her dog Jethro from her home to the hospice house so Jethro could also say goodbye.
Gone but still loved by all. RIP Aileen Crimmings O'Brien Graef - 10/30/64-8/21/2012
She is survived by two beautiful daughters, Katie and Aileen, whom she loved very much.
And, their dog Jethro.
Update: Miles and her daughters suggest that donations in honor of Aileen be sent to Visiting Nurses Association of the Treasure Coast (@vnatc), 1110 35th Lane. Vero Beach, FL 32960. This is the hospice center that cared for Aileen in her final days. Services at Strunk Funeral Home, 916 17th Street, Vero Beach, FL 32960. Read the rest
I loved Science Blogs contributor Orac before I was diagnosed with cancer. I love him a whole lot more now. I'll get to why in a moment, but I want to share something personal first (cracks knuckles).
Well-meaning friends have suggested I try coffee enemas and Burzynskian "antineoplastons" and oxygen therapy to cure my breast cancer; others have told me the reason some of my cells went mutinous is because I offended the Great Invisible Beardy Man in the Sky.
Dude, I've heard it all.
I am active on Twitter in talking about cancer, sharing the experience of my treatment (which fucking sucks), and connecting with fellow persons with cancer.
One of those fellow travelers yesterday tweeted this link, which praises the work of "ND" Judy Seeger. In alternative healing parlance, ND stands for naturopathic doctor. I like Orac's definition better: "not a doctor."
Let me be blunt: I think people who sell fake cancer cures are murderers.
I spoke about the content of that blog post with my radiation oncologist yesterday, after I lay down under the linear accelerator for another daily (yep, daily) blast of rays to kill any remaining lurking cells that might want to off me a few years down the road.
I hate radiation treatment, by the way. HATE IT. But I hate cancer more.
Read the rest