Too Much Heat, Not Nearly Enough Light

I was really hoping to blog about anything other than the healthcare bill this week, but as a card-carrying member of the blogosphere with a healthcare-related theme, it seems that I must. I just wish I had something good to say about it.

Well, I do have one good thing. Whether you’re a member of the pink-ribbon tribe, like I am, or have joined the ranks of those with pre-existing conditions for some other ailment, the good news is insurance companies can no longer deny us coverage (although we have to wait four years for that feature to kick in. So here’s hoping all of us with insurance through our employers keep our jobs.)

The biggest reason I don’t feel like I have much good to say is because I hated the tone of the debate, both leading up to the vote and now. I think it’s a stretch to even call it a debate. People shouting past each other and degenerating to name calling is not debate. Threats and vandalism (one might even argue terrorism) are not debate.

There’s plenty of guilt to go around–from you and me to the media to Congress itself. Whatever happened to reaching across the aisle to actually get something done? Instead, too much emphasis seems to be on making the other side lose. The best take I saw on this “win at all costs” mentality was at one of my favorite blogs, MD Whistleblower. Dr. Kirsch got the point across way better than I could. Let the spinning begin.

Another one of my favorite blogs is Musings of A Distractible Mind, and Dr. Rob (also an M.D.) summed it up pretty neatly when he called the process a national embarrassment in his excellent “Rearranging Chairs” post.  He also reminded us the new bill is neither Armegeddon nor Nirvana, contrary to what you might think depending on whether your taste runs to Fox News or MSNBC. He raised a very important point; that the bill doesn’t do anything to address the huge issue of rising costs. (Incidentally, so did Warren Buffett–perhaps you’ve heard of him.)

I love reading these guys because, news junkie that I am, I get tired of talking heads in the media and the Beltway. I want to hear from the people in the trenches who are living this every day. Dr. Kirsch and Dr. Rob have shed as much light on this complex topic as anyone, and in some cases much more.

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Do You Need a Double Mastectomy for Stage Zero Cancer?

Talk about the devil’s choice. When they discover cancer in your breast, not only do you get to choose from among such not-fun items as surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, but you get to decide whether you want to remove the healthy breast as a precaution.

I’ve talked before about how much I like The New York Times “Well” blog. On March 8, they posted an excellent story on this provocative topic, citing several recent studies. All of the research was interesting, but what held my attention was the jump in the number of women with Stage 0 cancer or precancer who chose the bilateral mastectomy. While the percentage is low (5.2 percent), it more than doubled in six years.

I was one of 219 people who commented, and our comments were as individual as snowflakes. Many women, like me, had stage 0 ductal carcinoma in situ, or DCIS. Each of us made her choice for her own reasons. In my case, I was really hanging my hat on breast-conserving surgery and radiation until two attempts at breast-conserving surgery didn’t clear out all the bad cells. (And darned if my breast tissue wasn’t still harboring some stubborn DCIS after the mastectomy. I have no doubt I made the right choice.)

Many of the women who commented chose the bilateral mastectomy and have no regrets. For them, the peace of mind was worth it. For me, the bilateral mastectomy was never a consideration, although as I mentioned in an earlier post my husband Bruce asked if I would think about it so I’d never have to go through this again. But the way I see it, I”m basically back at square one and I’m perfectly comfortable there. Others see it differently, and it’s up to each of us to decide what our individual risk tolerance and comfort level is. No one else can make that choice for you, and no one should pass judgment on your decision. If you’re facing that choice as you read this, you have my best regards.

The Warrior Princess Needs Your Vote

If you’ve read my previous blog posts, you may recall mentions of my friend Pam, who is in round 2 of a battle with the Stage 4 breast cancer monster and she’s not even 40 years old yet. She was an amazing mentor to me when I was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ. One of my fondest memories is when she sent his and hers “F*ck cancer” stocking hats to my husband Bruce and me. My hat was a big hit at my second lumpectomy.

What can I tell you about Pam? She’s a life force. She lives each moment to the fullest, with zest and joy. She also induces whiplash in any men in the general vicinity. Pam has the face of a beauty queen and the heart of a lion. I wrote a poem for her called “Warrior Princess” and may post it here one day, but I’m trying to get it published and some venues won’t accept work previously posted, even in a blog.  

Pam is also a contestant in the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Honorary Bat Girl Contest, which is in its sixth year. Major league teams will have honorary bat girls for the home games taking place on or near Mother’s Day. Pam wants to be the bat girl for the Kansas City Royals, and could use your help.

If you want to vote for Pam, please click on the link in the previous paragraph, then click on Vote for A Story. The list will appear in alphabetical order, so click on the little search box and select “Nick Name Z to A” to bring up Pam’s nickname “Warrior Princess.” When you bring up her story, you’ll be able to vote for her, and you can vote as many times as you want. They don’t show a specific date when voting will close but the official rules say it will be on or around April 12th.

Disclosure: I have selfish reasons for asking for your vote, because if they pick Pam, Bruce and I will be in the stands yelling our heads off. Thanks.

Blessed Are The Children: The Dig Pink Tour

Something beautiful is happening in Denver this weekend. Hundreds of club volleyball teams at the Colorado Crossroads national volleyball tournament are taking part in the Dig Pink Tour, the largest program of its kind in sports challenging the spread of breast cancer.

I found out about the event from my friend Katie, who attended in support of her daughters Erin and Rachel. Their teams played last weekend and are raising funds for breast cancer research through the tour. Both last Sunday and this Sunday are designated as Dig Pink Days, when everyone attending is encouraged to wear pink in support of awareness and research. Last year, the Dig Pink Tour raised more than $1 million and they’re trying to beat that this year.

I have no affiliation with the Dig Pink Tour or club volleyball, and I’m not writing this to try to get you to donate. I’m writing it because I find it so uplifting to see girls supporting the breast cancer cause this way.

I say that as someone who has not wholeheartedly embraced all things pink, either before or after I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I get as tired as the next guy of seeing pink ribbons on everything from yogurt to kitchen shears. But this is different. The only thing these girls are selling is hope.

Teenage girls on the volleyball court are beautiful the way colts are beautiful. But perhaps the most beautiful thing about them is they believe they can do something, and they believe things can change. We need to be more like them. And just think–if we succeed, maybe one day their daughters won’t need a Dig Pink Tour.