Friday, October 9, 2015

EARLY DETECTION DOES MATTER. PERIOD.

From the inception of the No Surrender Breast Cancer Foundation, we have stressed the importance of early detection. Some people are very lucky and find their tumors while they can be removed and the rest of the body can be treated depending on the extent of the disease. Does that mean that all small tumors are not deadly? No.

My first breast cancer's pathology revealed it began as DCIS, meaning it was contained within the milk duct. But it broke through the duct and became invasive. Invasive triple negative breast cancer. Because of this I had to do chemotherapy and radiation. That was in 2001. Over the next few years I met some wonderful women through my foundation. One young woman became a dear friend. Her name was Ferne Dixon. Her picture is on the right of this blog and always will be in eternal memory. She had triple negative breast cancer, too. But she did not get screened early and because of this the tumor was found after it became quite invasive.

Like Ferne, young, black women are at a higher risk of developing triple negative breast cancer while they are in their 30s. If they wait to be screened until they are 40 - or now as the new guidelines suggest 50 -  it will be too late. I promised Ferne as she was dying of this horrible disease, that I would do everything in my power to spread the word about the importance of early screening so young women would have a chance to become old women and not die of a disease that could have been treated and possibly overcome.

Now, after an exhaustive study, the experts are stating that early detection does, indeed, prolong life.
They have proof. It can be found here.

What the study shows is that the smaller the tumor, the longer the survival. The more lymph nodes involved and the larger the tumor the long term survival is not as favorable.

With new targeted treatments and the effectiveness of hormonal medications, even women with a more advanced disease are living longer. This applies only to women who are responsive to endocrine therapy.

My second cancer was estrogen receptor positive and it was large and involved the lymph nodes. Reading the graph is frightening knowing my pathology. But I am glad I did a year of strong chemo and had extensive radiation and am taking Femara. At least I am fighting it. What about the women who haven't been screened so they do not know they have to fight?

As everyone knows, we are firmly anti-pink at No Surrender. Sometimes that message is misunderstood to mean that we are anti-early detection. That has never, ever been the case. Look at our program The Before Forty Initiative - here - and you will see how strongly we believe in screening.  This screening is not just mammograms, which can miss some tumors. We encourage fighting for ultrasounds and breast MRI's - particularly for young women with dense breast tissue.

If you do anything in this pink month, set the record straight. Opposing pink greed is not opposing being smart and taking care of yourself and the ones you love. If you would like to start a Before Forty Initiative Outreach in your area, please contact us. We travel everywhere we can find women who don't know of their risks. We have made a difference. Tumors have been found in young women. And every time I am thanked by them or their mom or grandmother, I think of Ferne. I know she is smiling and telling me, "Keep it up, girl."

Early Screening Article: http://www.forbes.com/sites/elaineschattner/2015/10/09/yes-early-breast-cancer-detection-does-matter-a-new-bmj-study-finds/

Before Forty Initiative: http://nosurrenderbreastcancerhelp.org/About/B440/Before40.html

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Nothing to Say

It's October. Oh holy hell. Not again.

Everyone is asking me to either say something or  participate in something pink. Why? When have I ever been pink?

I was first diagnosed in September - so I had to go through the first horrifying month of chemo in a sea of pink ribbons and happy faces. In the real world, I slept on the bathroom floor because I was so sick from treatment I had to.

Breast Cancer is a cancer just as real as any other. But for some reason, this particular cancer is downgraded and infantilized. The focus is on  "Saving the Boobies!" not saving the lives of the 250,000 women who are diagnosed each year with over  40,000 dying of the disease annually. No. It is easier to make it pretty in pink. Easier for whom?


In the past week I was asked if my foundation, "Gets a lot of donations because it is October?"  Uh, no. People are too tapped out from buying pink toilet paper and pink fuel filters and pink shoelaces and pink ... everything. As I was checking out at a local store today the cashier asked if I would like to "Give to breast cancer?" Give what? What more can I possibly give? I asked her which breast cancer? She said, "You know, the one that you give to." I bit my tongue and said, no.


Nevertheless, it is upon us. In its full pink glory. Everyone looks so happy. The idiotic glee celebrating rapidly duplicating cells that are attempting to claim your life. This misguided and dangerous joy is hurting the women who are afflicted with this cancer. It is devastating to the women who are dying from this cancer. How do you explain the giddy excitement of Pinktober to a child who lost their mom? I know a lot of kids who lost moms. Trust me. They aren't having as much fun as the pink zombies want you to believe they are.  But no matter, as long as one percent of your purchase price goes to "a breast cancer charity" you should feel really great about doing your bit for breast cancer.


I run a non-profit foundation for women trying to get through breast cancer and we have never exploited the month of October for fundraising purposes. Why? Because women have breast cancer twelve months a year. And we help women during every single one of them. Our care doesn't stop after Halloween.


I do not use profanity in my writing, I keep things clean and professional. But, sometimes, only someone who really gets it, can put things into perspective. I wish everyone took breast cancer as seriously as other cancers. Other cancers like the one that took Warren Zevon. He wrote this in response to his diagnosis and treatment. It's not pink. Neither is breast cancer. Cancer is cancer. And the next time someone asks you to wear a pink boa and act like a child, please remember that THIS is what having cancer feels like...