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Too Much Cancer: This Week a Family Member, a Friend and an Acquaintance

Cancer survivor struggles to stay positive while supporting a newly re-diagnosed family member and friend.
PUBLISHED: MARCH 20, 2017

Well, there is just too much cancer out there. Sometimes, even as or especially as a two-time survivor, I just want to pull my head into my shell and have it all go away. Three people in my life have each found themselves in the cancer pool. One is facing the results of a scan that could be cancer, another is a fellow survivor facing a recurrence and last is a family member who is having a second recurrence. I am worried for each of them. Cancer stinks. This looming fear of recurrence for all survivors stinks.

Mom’s breast cancer is back — for the third time. She has lobular carcinoma. The first time, she had a lumpectomy. The second time, she chose a double mastectomy and because of health issues, she chose not to have chemotherapy or radiation. Now, there are nodules on her chest wall that we can see on her skin. They look like large blood blisters except they stick up more. Mom is 84. I had invasive ductal carcinoma breast cancer at 46 and a melanoma on the opposite arm a few years later.

I am scared and sad. I am afraid we have run out of body parts that can simply be removed for her. We see the oncology surgeon next week for a more specific diagnosis and then we go back to the medical oncologist for a treatment plan. Chemotherapy is still not a good idea for Mom, but radiation and changing her hormone medications may be possibilities for her. We have now entered the realm of metastatic breast cancer. I am worried.

We don’t want cancer to kill patients, but we don’t want treatments to harm them either. I am scheduled for my first 3D mammogram this spring. I have a friend of a friend who became my friend several years ago. She was several years out from her breast cancer and was willing to help support me as a friend through my breast cancer. Now she has just had her 3D mammogram, over a decade out from her original breast cancer. As the result of what the 3D mammogram showed, she is now dealing with cancer ... again. I am angry and sad for her and for Mom, and for all of us, as survivors living with this possibility looming over our heads for the rest of our lives.

It sounds like a 3D mammogram sees more clearly than the old standard mammogram. Maybe that is a good and a bad thing? Are we going to find things and then treat things that may never become problems? Are we going to put breast cancer survivors and others through unnecessary additional testing and procedures while everyone goes through getting their baseline 3D mammogram? Or, are we going to catch things earlier? Early detection as we all know, is better than finding out there is cancer after it has already spread and advanced.

I am worried right now for my friend, my mom, for my daughters and for myself. I am making an appointment to see the genetic counselor — again. As always, the questions and worries get ahead of the science and research. This, for me, is where my belief system becomes helpful.

It is probably wise to ponder and exercise good judgment, and it is also wise to give it to God, too. In the end, life will always have uncertainties, and making lemonade from life’s lemons is the only sane thing to do. We are here to help and support each other. To end on a happier note, one of the three people I mentioned earlier, the person with the suspicious scan, came back fine!

Keep faith. Keep hope. Above all, keep love.



Talk about this article with other patients, caregivers, and advocates in the General Discussions CURE discussion group.
Barbara Tako is a breast cancer survivor (2010), melanoma survivor (2014) and author of Cancer Survivorship Coping Tools–We'll Get You Through This. She is a cancer coping advocate, speaker and published writer for television, radio and other venues across the country. She lives, survives, and thrives in Minnesota with her husband, children and dog. See more at www.cancersurvivorshipcopingtools.com,or www.clutterclearingchoices.com.
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