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Archive for October, 2008

This whole time I’ve been beating myself up about the cancerous fluids returning to my heart area. It never once occurred to me that I could just be the victim of malpractice. I’m not going to sue or anything but the word “malpractice” is just very fitting here. Let me give you some background information:

My breast cancer is highly estrogen receptive. This means that every month, as the levels of estrogen rose in my body during the normal cycle of hormones, my cancer grew. Estrogen feeds my cancer. Ever since puberty my body has been an overzealous producer of estrogen and as a result I’ve struggled from horrible symptoms since the age of 13. This is the reason I agreed to be on Zoladex. It is a medicinal pellet that is injected with a giant needle every 28 days into my belly fat. The pellet dissolves over the course of 28 days and the little particles of medication somehow make the long trip all the way up to my pituitary gland (in the brain) where they block the signal normally sent by my pituitary to my ovaries to make estrogen. This puts me into what is known as chemically-induced menopause. The only side effects from the Zoladex are occasional insomnia and lots and lots of hot flashes.

Well in September, right around the time of my last healing reaction, I noticed that my hot flashes stopped completely. I boastfully assumed that my body was just a master of regulation and could overcome the side effects of chemically-induced menopause. What I neglected to remember in my superhero fantasies is a little mishap that occurred when the nurse was giving me the injection in early September. As she pressed the plunger on the needle to release the zoladex she said “Ooops…” I looked down (and I never look during these things) to see the pellet sticking out of my body. She had pressed the plunger too soon. “I’ll just push this back in” the nurse said and I believed her. I believed she could push the pellet all the way back into my stomach. I didn’t look as she did this. Normally the area is swollen for a few days. I did think it was remarkably unswollen afterward but I fully trusted this nurse and when she assured me that she pushed the Zoladex safely and securely into my flesh I believed her.

Fast forward to 28 days later. I go to the doctor’s office ready for my injection. They forgot to order it (this is the third time in less than a year that this has happened) and won’t have it for 5 more days. Timing is crucial with zoladex. You have to receive the injection before you ovulate. If you ovulate, goodbye menopause, hello flood of carcinogenic estrogen. Which is what happened. Which explains why the cancerous fluids reaccumulated and god knows what else at this point.

I called my doctor and he took no blame. He has recently left the old practice and started his own. He put all the blame on the old practice. In September, during the injection screw up, my doctor was with the old practice. The nurse who messed up stayed with the old practice. But the screw up in ordering my medication in a timely fashion occurred at the new practice in October. I love my doctor and do not want to find a new on but I am mad as hell. I did my part. I am working so hard to beat this. People say it’s a full time job but it’s not. It’s more. Even people who put in a ton of overtime get a day off every now and then. I am lucky to have the help of my mom and Nathan but it is so draining not to be able to go anywhere or do anything. I held up my extremely difficult end of the bargain and it just makes me so angry that my doctor’s staff neglected to do their part. These mistakes could cost me months. I could regress quite a bit. I was so close to being cancer free and then this happened. I get a CT scan Tuesday and god knows what they will find at this point.

The only comforting thing I have learned from this whole experience is that no matter what I eat, no matter how healthy I am, nothing can stop the pain and misery I used to experience every month. There is clearly something wrong with the whole system. I am hardwired to make mass quantities of estrogen for whatever reason. For the women out there who have normal easy cycles consider yourself very blessed. Know that the women with difficult cycles are not making it up. The pain is real and it is debilitating. And trust me, I’ve been through A LOT of pain in the last year or so. I know my pain. You would think someone as cancer-skinny as me wouldn’t even be able to have a period. But that’s my body for you.

So that’s that. I have no more dignity. My breasts and menstrual cycles are officially public information.

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As if we’re not already über aware, October is breast cancer awareness month. By the ubiquitous pink ribbons plastered onto products from toasters to mascara and donned by many Hollywood types you might think every month is breast cancer awareness month. One might also think there are no other cancers that afflict Americans. You may find yourself wondering “Why is there such a big campaign to raise awareness of breast cancer in particular?” I’ll tell you why.

Women are the fastest growing group of consumers in this country. Most women have a friend or relative who has or has had breast cancer. Women are conscientious consumers, more likely to purchase products from companies they deem ethical. Advertisers know this and they use it as a tactic to get people to buy their products.

If you would like to be a truly informed conscientious consumer, go to think before you pink. They are an organization formed as a watchdog for companies that “pinkwash” or use pink ribbons to allure consumers while hypocritically using cancer-causing ingredients in their products. According to their website the Think Before You Pink campaign

“…calls for more transparency and accountability by companies that take part in breast cancer fundraising, and encourages consumers to ask critical questions about pink ribbon promotions.”

Long before my mother’s breast cancer and my own, back when I was a teenager, I used to ask my mom to buy Yoplait yogurt. I ate Yoplait because for every yogurt lid I sent back to the company, they agreed to donate a percentage of the sales to breast cancer research. Think Before You Pink highlights Yoplait as a pinkwasher. Their yogurt contains dairy from cows that have been treated with rBGH which is an artificial growth hormone that is linked to breast cancer and many other health concerns. The irony singes me- By consuming a product that claimed to support research for a breast cancer cure I may have unwittingly contributed to my own breast cancer.

Consider also the many cosmetics companies whose pink ribbon-clad products claim to “support the fight against breast cancer” all the while using parabens and phthalates among a host of other toxic, breast cancer-causing ingredients in their products. Both parabens and phthaletes are endocrine disrupters that mimic estrogen in the body. Increased exposure to estrogen or estrogen-like substances is a known to raise a woman’s breast cancer risk. In fact, phthalates were once used in children’s toys but were phased out due to their toxicity.

If you would like to evaluate the safety of your cosmetics, go to skin deep. They will rate the safety of your product and give you a breakdown of all the ingredients in it and any research that links those ingredients to cancer or other health concerns.

So where exactly do these pink dollars go? You might think they would like to research the hundreds of women who have eradicated metastatic breast cancer by modifying their lifestyle and eating choices. But they are not really interested in curing breast cancer or any cancer for that matter. Billions of dollars are pumped into the cancer industry- to pharmaceutical companies that manufacture cancer drugs, to major cancer organizations and to cancer hospitals. There is a lot at stake for the people that make up the cancer industry if a cure were discovered. In fact, the American Cancer Society, the world’s wealthiest non-profit institution, is supposed to disband if a cure for cancer is found.

Those research dollars are likely to go towards toxic drugs that may work in the short term and then make matters worse down the road. That way by the time the patent expires they can peddle you a brand new drug that will have the same effect. They repeat this vicious cycle until you die.

It’s not that all the people who make up the cancer industry are bad. I think 99.999% of them are good people who genuinely want to help wipe out cancer. It’s the people at the top who are concerned with the bottom line, not your health. In fact, the ACS board of directors includes people in the chemical industry who create pesticides that cause breast cancer. According to preventcancer.com, among the seven wealthy people on the ACS board of directors are

“David R. Bethune, president of Lederle Laboratories, a multinational pharmaceutical company and a division of American Cyanamid Company. Bethune is also vice president of American Cyanamid, which makes chemical fertilizers and herbicides while transforming itself into a full-fledged pharmaceutical company. In 1988, American Cyanamid introduced Novatrone, an anti-cancer drug. And in 1992, it announced that it would buy a majority of shares of Immunex, a cancer drug maker.”

A company that manufactures both cancer-causing chemicals and anti-cancer drugs. Nice. And then there’s this guy

“Gordon Binder, CEO of Amgen, the world’s foremost biotechnology company, with over $1 billion in product sales in 1992. Amgen’s success rests almost exclusively on one product, Neupogen, which is administered to chemotherapy patients to stimulate their production of white blood cells. As the cancer epidemic grows, sales for Neupogen continue to skyrocket.”

Sounds like a conflict of interest to me.

I am hoping that somewhere, somehow some of those pink dollars will actually go towards curing breast cancer. It’s nice that they have been able to increase the longevity of women with breast cancer but you really have to call into question the quality of those extra years. Women do not want to spend them sick and on multiple drugs. We want a cure.

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mixed news…

The first thing the doc told me did not make me smile. My tumor marker is up to 101.7. That’s almost double what it was last time. No good. But keep in mind some docs don’t even use tumor markers as they do wacky things sometimes for no good reason. Only I knew already what was wrong with me.

I’ve been feeling the effects of pericardial (heart area) fluid accumulation. I can tell because I get short of breath and have to cough from time to time. Also, I feel a little pressure in the heart area. Sure enough, this showed up on the scan. Only the report said “There is a new abnormal uptake seen in the anterior mediastinum. The etiology of this is uncertain. It is unclear whether this is pericardial fluid or adenopathy.” well I know which it is. But I have to have my chest CT scanned next anyway week so they can tell me that I have fluid around my heart. I am trying to search for alternatives to another pericardial window because the LAST thing I want is another heart surgery. I know that the mess of healing tissue from the last surgeries is what is causing this. Any time you have surgery it makes the body more susctible to mets near the op site. even docs admit this one. But not having surgery means I could have a heart attack. That’s not an option either. I am hoping if I just tighten things up it will go away on it’s own. No docs have said the s word yet so it may not lead to that.

The good news- The cancer is gone completely from my liver, still gone from my lungs and most of my bone mets have either vanished or shrunk except for one pesky tumor that is taking up more sugar. It hasn’t grown but it is taking up sugar which is bad. But this is in sharp contrast to the other bone lesions which are taking the hint and getting the hell out of my body.

So that’s the news. Please don’t worry about me. Other than a little breathlessness I feel great.  I am really confident that I can still kick this thing. Keep imagining me strong, healthy, happy and (hey, why not) rich in your prayers/visualizations.

I love you all!!!

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Tuesday I had my PET scan. For this particular scan, they inject you with radioactive sugar and leave you on a chair in a dark, cramped room for an hour to allow it to fully circulate throughout your body. Then they send you through the mechanical doughnut from hell. In the closet-sized room there is actually a sign on the wall that says “Due to national and state regulations regarding radiation exposure, technologists must: Maintain a safe distance from the patient once the solution has been administered and limit contact with the patient.” Nice! Part of monitoring my treatment includes exposing me to unsafe levels of cancer-causing radiation. If it is dangerous to be near me I cant imagine how dangerous it is to be me. Why is it that seemingly almost all pharmaceutical drugs and procedures are inherently paradoxical? Chemo and radiation may reduce your cancer but they may also cause cancer. Both are carcinogens. Tamoxifen may reduce your breast cancer but it may also cause uterine cancer. Scans and xrays may help detect cancer and monitor treatment but the radiation used during these scans may cause cancer. Zoloft may make you happier or it may make you a homicidal or suicidal maniac. The problem and solution all in one! In this way it would seem that western medicine embraces the yin-yang of Chinese philosophy. Or they are just greedy bastards.

And why are they “technologists?” Why not “tech” or “technician?” Has anyone ever heard of a technologist?

My technologist was quite flabbergasted by my previous PET scan reports in which the pathologist had summarized that I have shown a great response to my “treatment.” He said he rarely ever sees that on a report. He wanted to know what miracle drug I was on. When I told him about Gerson therapy he was very interested and had a lot of questions. When I told him about the juice he quickly interjected “Oh, you mean like that Naked juice they sell at the store?” I had to explain to him that while that juice may have many benefits, due to being exposed to oxygen in the packaging process it does not contain the live cancer-fighting enzymes of fresh juice. “Even if you drink it before its expiration date?” Yes Mr. Technologist.

Don’t I wish though? My life would be so much easier, so much cheaper to maintain. I would be so mobile! I would even be able to work if all I had to do was pack a cooler full of store-bought, prepackaged juices. I sat and daydreamed about this impossibility while the radioactive sugar found its way to my every vein and capillary.

I get my results exactly one week from now. Wish me luck!!

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