Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Tough Few Weeks

I've got to tell you, the past few weeks have brought some tough moments. First, Elizabeth Edwards died. Her breast cancer was a stage 3 when it was discovered, as was mine. This week I learned that a friend's breast cancer, also diagnosed at stage 3, has metastasized to her bones and her liver. I am sad and mad. Sad, of course, at the harsh realities of illness and death. And mad that although we live in a sophisticated nation, we seem unable to get a handle on how to stem the tide of this disease.

On Tuesday, I was listening to Fresh Air with Terri Gross on the local public radio station, and she was interviewing an oncologist, Dr. Marisa Weiss, about her own breast cancer. Dr. Weiss is responsible for the development of the website, which is a terrific source of straight facts and discussions about breast cancer. Dr. Weiss's cancer was just diagnosed last spring, long after the founding of the website. It was satisfying, although not consoling, to hear her express her professional assessment of what is causing breast cancer, because her thoughts line up with the conclusions I have reached. To hear her interview, please go to and follow the links to Fresh Air and the program aired on Tuesday, December 14, 2010.

I am most interested in what Dr. Weiss says she is doing to protect herself from recurrence: eating organic fruits and vegetables, avoiding meats with hormones, clearing her home of all cleaning products made with chemicals which the body can "receive" as estrogen, avoiding stress, cutting back on alcohol(3-4 drinks per week), ramping up her exercise regimen, losing weight and maintaining it, and getting adequate sleep to give her body a chance to repair itself. She acknowledges that this change in lifestyle requires commitment. What I think is distressing is that this lifestyle is so unusual. Based on what I have read and heard, everyone should be trying to live this way.

Since completing my chemo and radiation treatments, I have felt uneasy, like I am dangling by a thin thread above a deep chasm. This is due, I am sure, to the fact that I am not DOING anything to chase the cancer away; I am just sitting and waiting. I guess the challenge for me is to take up the chase by consciously undertaking a real lifestyle change, as Dr. Weiss has done.


  1. Having been diagnosed with Stage 3B cancer myself in 2004 I too am bothered by the stories of those like Elizabeth Edwards who have lost the battle against this horrible disease. A cruel reminder of what could be. The flip side is there are others who have won the fight. I am 6 years out and survived a very grim prognosis and for that I am enormously thankful. There are many positive stories out there like mine. Take up the can prevail!

  2. Having never had cancer, I'm in no way qualified to comment on your experience, but I do know something about having a plan of action; it's been my main weapon against anxiety in life thus far (In my case, in addition to DOING something, the plan usually includes a fair amount of talking!) Not being able to rely on that kind of plan sounds pretty scary to me. You have a lot of other weapons in your arsenal, though, and I think many of them involve your deep well of kindness. I have faith that you'll find a new plan.