2011 was full of news on the breast cancer front. One item that resonated with me was discussion of a new gene test that could pinpoint which women would be most likely to benefit from radiation for their ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), meaning they could also pinpoint who would benefit from a wait and see approach. By definition, DCIS is confined to the milk ducts. The question is will it mind its own business and stay there, or will it escape and start to spread?
DCIS is so new on the scene that it’s not well understood yet, and doctors would rather see their patients be safe than sorry when it comes to treatment. I went the safe route when I opted for a mastectomy over radiation (trust me, it wasn’t an easy choice, at least for me). So the obvious question is, what if I could have been spared either one? What if mine had been slower moving?
I’ll spare you the details of my decision-making process (they’re in my book, ahem) but I didn’t believe my DCIS was going to stay put, then or now. I realize there’s such a thing as cognitive dissonance (what most of us call sour grapes) but I don’t think that’s the case.
And besides, that’s not the point. Whether my belief system can handle this new information or not, we’re going to see a lot of this with breast cancer or any cancer. We also learned recently that perhaps they don’t need to remove so many lymph nodes to get a good feel for whether cancer has spread. I’m sure women with lymphedema are less than delighted by that news. Such is life. Such is medical progress. Imagine how we’d all feel if we had been operated on before they discovered anesthesia.
The point I’m trying to make is that cancer is no place for “Coulda, woulda, shoulda.” We do the best we can with the information we have at the time. Crystal balls are not retroactive.
Thinking about this also got me thinking about the “three words” concept for the start of the new year. A lot of people, including me, blogged about three words to focus on instead of making resolutions. I’d like to suggest that we also consider three words to banish from our thinking in 2012 and these three are at the top of my list. Not just for how I handled my cancer, but how I live my life.
Cancer can make you wonder what you want to do with this life you’re so lucky to have. Getting older does the same thing. 40 is called the old age of youth and 50 the youth of old age. I crossed over into the youth of old age just over six years ago. I do not intend to get to the end of my life thinking “Coulda, woulda, shoulda.” And I hope you don’t either.