Sunday, October 26, 2014

Statistically Speaking

Recently a friend contacted me because she was called back after her annual mammogram. And she was scared. As we talked she quoted statistics to me. I wanted to give her a positive response and say that everything was going to be fine; that she had nothing to worry about. But I couldn’t. She was scared because she knows my story. What I did say was this: “Its ok to be scared. You are right; the chances are that everything is going to be all right.” (But if they are not, I’m here for you).

That got me thinking about some of the key facts that are often shared during the month of October. In 2014, there will be approximately 232,670 new cases of invasive breast cancer (this does not include Stage 0) diagnosed in women here in the U.S. And about 40,000 women will die from breast cancer this year. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, exceeded only by lung cancer.
The 5-year survival rate is often quoted, but all that means is that you are still alive 5 years after being diagnosed. These rates are excellent for early stage breast cancer.

5-Year Survival Rate

Unfortunately all this tells us is that at the 5-year mark, chances are you are still alive. This doesn’t tell you the chances of recurrence or your chances of metastasis. Statistically, 20-30% of all breast cancer that is limited to the breast (early stage) will metastasize. For women who are first diagnosed with cancer in their lymph nodes as well as the breast, 30-60% will metastasize. These statistics have remained relatively unchanged for decades.
Statistically speaking, we need a cure.*

American Cancer Society.
National Cancer Institute

*A cure for one cancer is a cure for all.

If you enjoy my blog and would like to follow me on Facebook, I can be found at The Reluctant Survivor. And on Twitter @relucsurvivor.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Rockin' the Pink Ribbon

There is a lot of backlash to the “pinking” of October. I understand it. Actually, I am getting a little tired of everything being pink; items being sold with a pink ribbon on them, and companies jumping in with pink promotions all in the name of “awareness.” However, I am not anti-pink. Nor am I anti-pink ribbon.
I appreciate the celebrities who advertise for a company promoting a pink item because I think they truly care. I just hope they’ve done their homework and know exactly how much money is going to the charity of choice. And how much that charity actually does for breast cancer research; both for prevention and a cure. Turning our disease into a money-making opportunity while pretending to care has got to stop. And companies that use their usual marketing campaigns but simply pink-wash the ad and say that it is “in support of” breast cancer awareness only trivializes the reality that is breast cancer. And it is hurtful to those who are dying of breast cancer. This is what is making everyone so angry.

I understand the anger, but I am not going to give up my pink ribbon during October. I am going to continue to wear my pink ribbon pin because for me the pin is a symbol and a badge of honor. It is also an open invitation. Wearing the pin lets people know that I support the cause that is breast cancer. When someone sees the ribbon they might choose to ask me why I wear the ribbon. It happens. The ribbon also provides an opportunity for someone to share, without my being intrusive.
I am not a brave person but my pink ribbon says, “Yes, we can talk about breast cancer if you’d like.” And so I will continue to wear it as a survivor, in support of others with the disease, and as an opportunity for conversation.

If you enjoy my blog and would like to follow me on Facebook, I can be found at The Reluctant Survivor. And on Twitter @relucsurvivor.

Saturday, October 4, 2014


Grateful: warmly or deeply appreciative of kindness or benefits received; thankful. -
Being grateful goes beyond being thankful. As I reflect on the years that have passed since my surgery I think of all the things for which I am thankful. In that first year, I graduated from law school, Kiley was born, and I passed the bar exam.
In the years since, we bought a beautiful new home, I changed jobs to one that is a perfect fit for me, and I have had the opportunity to travel. I’ve made many new friends, and reconnected with old. Along the way I have lost friends to cancer, and am losing a dear friend to this terrible disease. Despite the loss, I reflect on how blessed I am that God chose to bring these friends into my life. And I am determined to do what I can to help find a cure.
Often my thoughts turn to my husband and all that he means to me. Of course a husband is supposed to be supportive in sickness and in health; we took that vow almost 30 years ago. But I think of his tenderness, his fear, and his daily care. Where would I have been if I did not have him? Yes, he took me to every doctor’s appointment, but beyond that he has literally supported me physically, emotionally and financially. I am overcome by a deep sense of how much I appreciate our relationship.
It is only now that I get a glimpse of what my friend Diane meant by being grateful. It is not just a “thank you” to God for providing support, love and comfort during difficult times. Being grateful is a deep sense of appreciation for what has been given.

If you enjoy my blog and would like to follow me on Facebook, I can be found at The Reluctant Survivor. And on Twitter @relucsurvivor.

Friday, October 3, 2014

When You Need A Friend

As you know I struggle with the label "cancer survivor" because I do not want it to define who I am. I started this blog as a way to share my personal journey with family and friends. What I needed to say was too long for a status update. Over the past couple of months I have been struggling with the title I have given myself as the Reluctant Survivor.

Cancer does not define who I am. Though being a cancer survivor is part of my definition. As I state, I am a wife, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a cousin and a best friend. I am a poet, a lawyer, and a survivor. However, I could remove the second part of that definition and I would still be wholly and fully me.

I have discovered that this blog is more than who I am as a survivor. It is, in fact, my life after cancer. It is filled with my story of healing and hope. But it is also filled with joy, education, experiences and opinion.

I recently had an experience that challenged me to change the name of my blog and update my social media presence. I’m not going to do that. However, I did update my Twitter account to show my name, but still be @relucsurvivor.

What is most important to me is that I remain true to who I am, as well as be open and available to others. I will always be a wife, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a cousin, and a best friend. I am also a survivor who wants to share my story of healing and hope. But I am also a survivor who understands and knows the reality of this deadly disease called cancer. And so I am also a survivor who will hold your hand when you need a friend.


If you enjoy my blog and would like to follow me on Facebook, I can be found at The Reluctant Survivor. And on Twitter @relucsurvivor.