Three Reasons Surgeons Make Better Crushes Than Vampires

“The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” hits theaters Wednesday, which means it’s time for millions of women to fall into a collective swoon in their Team Edward T-shirts. I will own up to not being one of them. Maybe I’m too old; I saw a clip of some momentous encounter from the previous movie and thought they looked like a bunch of sullen teenagers at a family reunion. I was half expecting one or more of them to pull out a cell phone and start texting.

But I’m not here to slag on the casting or acting talent of the Twilight series; I’m here to make the case that surgeons make better crushes than vampires. And to build that case, I should start with the similarities. What do surgeons and vampires have in common? Blood is the obvious link. Perhaps a less obvious one is how weirdly intimate their activities are. I can’t think of anything more intimate than having fangs puncture your throat, except having the same thing happen with a scalpel. Well, I can think of one other thing, but I don’t want to be labeled as adult content.

Now on to what makes surgeons better crushes than vampires. Reason No 1: Downplaying real drama is sexier than manufacturing fake drama. I’m sorry but glaring at your fake enemies and fake flying through fake treetops don’t count. You want the real thing, try getting wheeled into an operating room or better yet, an emergency room. That’s more drama than anyone could ever want. Does your surgeon glare or snarl or gnash his fangs, er, teeth, to reinforce this? No. He is the essence of calm, which attracts your worried soul like light attracts a moth.

Reason No. 2: Surgeons are not morally challenged. The vampire hero is always fighting against his true nature to protect those he cares about. The vampire villain doesn’t bother, of course, but either way, there’s no equivalent of the Hippocratic Oath. Surgeons, on the other hand, represent the better angels of our nature by healing when they can and comforting when they can’t. Team Surgeon wins this one hands down.

Reason No. 3: The aforementioned blood thing. Vampires want to suck it out of you; surgeons want to make sure you keep it. They’re not trafficking in death, un- or otherwise, but life. And tell me, what’s sexier than being alive?


Medical Treatment vs. Magical Thinking: Which Would You Choose?

I just don’t understand how someone can live in this day and age and deny the effectiveness of scientifically sound medical treatment when dealing with breast cancer. I was completely flummoxed when I came across the in-depth and thoughtful post “A horrifying breast cancer ‘testimonial’ for ‘holistic’ treatment” on the Respectful Insolence science blog, written by a surgeon and scientist who uses the pen name Orac.

Like others who came before and surely will come after her, Kim Tinkham rejected conventional medical treatment  in favor of quack pseudoscience, in this case provided by Robert O. Young, who believes cancer is caused by “excess acid” and flacks something called the PH Miracle. Which also aids with weight loss, diabetes and anti-aging according to their website. And why not? Heck, if it can cure stage 3 breast cancer, weight loss must be a piece of cake.

As I read this excellent if alarming blog, I couldn’t stop wondering what could cause someone to reject real medical treatment for 21st century snake oil. And as Orac explained, Tinkham was also a proponent of “The Secret,” which was a big fad a few years ago. The Secret is like a self-fulfilling prophecy on steroids–whatever you believe, you can make happen, never mind cause and effect. The psychology world calls this naive and unfounded belief “magical thinking.”

I’m not trying to pick on Tinkham, just understand her. One of the things she kept talking about was personal choice. I’m pretty big on choice myself. I know from experience how difficult the choices can be when it comes to breast cancer, and I also know that no one else can make that choice for us. And I understand and support people who choose to not to undergo treatment so they can maintain quality of life as they approach its end.

But to reject the treatment that’s our best hope of forestalling that stark end-of-life choice is absolutely unfathomable to me. While I was wrestling with the decision of what treatment plan I should accept for my early-stage breast cancer, not once did it occur to me to reject those options for the equivalent of not stepping on a crack.

What has to be in your head and heart, to make you believe that belief itself (and whatever magic elixir happens to be in vogue) is a better option than professional medical treatment? How can we break through that kind of belief system? I’m not sure we can. I kept wondering what I would do if someone I loved told me she was going that route. I wouldn’t be above trying emotional blackmail and begging her to do it for her family if not herself.

The saddest thing about this is all those other desperate women who are going to see Tinkham’s testimonial on YouTube and believe in quack cures like she did. If only we could get them to believe in science and medicine.

As for Robert O. Young, there’s a special place in Hades for him and people like him.

Breast Cancer 2.0

I’ve often thought if I had to vote on whether the Internet or the personal computer has had a bigger impact on our lives, I’d have to go with the Internet. There’s no doubt the computer had a huge impact on productivity. I’m old enough to remember using a typewriter and Wite-Out fluid to correct errors, and that’s just one small example. (Anyone else out there remember Wite-Out?)

But I’d have to go with the Internet for two reasons. First, because it’s a terrific research tool–as long as you take it with a grain of salt. I read somewhere that getting on the Internet is like sitting at a bar with a drunk on one side and a Ph.D. on the other side, and I believe that. I’ve seen product sales sites come up higher in searches for certain conditions than the Mayo Clinic, for example. My best advice for those of us who go online to research our conditions is to discuss everything we find with our doctors. That’s what I did when I was diagnosed with DCIS, although I stuck to reputable sites like Mayo.

But the biggest reason I’d have to vote for the Internet is what it’s done for the way we communicate with each other. My blog is just one of a legion of examples of women sharing our cancer experience. Catherine Morgan, who blogs about health at Blogher, recently posted a list of some great survivor blogs.

The thing about blogging and other social media is that at its best, it’s a conversation. It never fails to knock me out how we are able to reach out both to long-lost friends and people we don’t know and may never meet in person.

Judy Cross and Hillary T are two of them. Judy responded to my post about whether you need a double mastectomy for a stage 0 cancer. She chose the bilateral option for peace of mind, and I know others who have made the same choice. Hillary was facing a mastectomy and she’s only 25 years old. For a 25-year-old to even have to think about this is wrong on too many levels to count. I hope reaching out this way brought them some measure of comfort.

You may notice that my blog has a Google Translate link so you can read it in Spanish. I did that as a result of a comment from a wonderful young man, Fernando Alfonso, who posted a comment and told me he and his mom were translating my posts into Spanish for his grandmother.

It’s hard to express how much these comments mean to me. Everyone who blogs is tossing out a message in a bottle to some extent. When it comes back it truly feels like a blessing. And for all its commotion and traffic, this is the real beauty of the Internet.

Football 101: Not Your Typical Breast Cancer Fundraiser

I’ve been to several breast cancer fundraisers since I was diagnosed in 2008, but I’ve never been to anything like the one I attended on Wednesday. It was Football 101, put on by the Bo Pelini Foundation and Southeast Nebraska Cancer Center at the University of Nebraska Hawks Championship Center and Memorial Stadium.

In case you don’t live in Nebraska or follow college football, I should tell you that Bo Pelini is the head coach of our Cornhuskers football team. I should also tell you that college football is more than a tradition in Nebraska. It’s a religion, and I’m a believer (or Boliever, as we like to say here. The guy is a rock star.)

The fundraisers I’ve been to before were of the women sitting around eating and listening to speakers variety. I’m not knocking eating; it’s one of my favorite pastimes. But this all-day event was different. Here you had a bunch of men who look great in shorts showing 900-plus women (and a handful of men) the finer points of strength training, throwing, catching and tackling. I left the throwing and catching to others; the drills where you ran into things and knocked them over were more my speed. (I do that without trying half the time anyway.)

The coaches were funny and wonderful but we learned things too. And when we finished each drill, they all had us huddle, do their chants of “D Line!” or whatever, and touch our raised hands like real players. Coach Sanders even had us all jumping up and down. I’ll sure be thinking of that the next time I’m at a game.

There were also times we sat and listened, learning about offensive plays with really weird long names like Winston Zebra Cobra Something, and then watching the play films. I kept wondering how the quarterbacks would remember the names, much less the moves.

And there was some plain silly fun, like Coach Bo and his brother Carl (our defensive coordinator) giving each other the kind of grief only brothers can give, or the players doing their version of American Idol. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this event since it was my first time, but I didn’t think I’d start the day laughing so much.

If we started the day laughing, we ended it in awe.  All 900-some of us got to do the Tunnel Walk that our guys do before every home game. They crank up the Alan Parsons Project music and show them coming out of the tunnel on that huge screen, and I get goosebumps every single time.

The day ended with all of the breast cancer survivors getting to go back to the locker room with Coach Pelini for a private reception and a chance to get our pictures taken with him. The only house rule that day was to not ask the coaches for pictures or autographs, so this was huge.

His players usually don’t repeat what was said in the locker room so I won’t either, but it was one of the most special things I’ve ever been a part of. He kept thanking us, but he has no idea what a privilege it was to be there. Thanks, Coach.