Monday, April 25, 2016

GETTING CANCER IS NOT YOUR FAULT


   


   On February 25th I underwent an operation to remove my ovaries and fallopian tubes because an ultrasound had found growths on my ovaries. At the age of 69, doctors recommend complete removal. Before I went under I was told they would biopsy what they found, and go further, possibly doing a complete hysterectomy.  All completed in one session with complete anesthesia. I admit I was worried I might wake up midstream.  In fact, I didn't and did need not only a complete hysterectomy (cancer was found in both the ovaries as well as the uterus) but also removal of the omentum.  What the H is that?  
noun
ANATOMY
noun: omentum; plural noun: omenta

"a fold of peritoneum connecting the stomach with other abdominal organs."

I was told that in fact I had two kinds of cancer -- ovarian and uterine -- and would need chemo, radiation, and again chemo.  The ovarian was early stage 3, but the uterine was not easily determined -- it could be stage one, or it could be stage four.






   "Although ovarian cancer accounts for just 3% of all cancers in women, it’s the leading cause of gynecological cancer deaths. Less than half of all women diagnosed with ovarian cancer survive more than 5 years. Early symptoms, including abdominal discomfort and bloating, often go unnoticed or are misdiagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome. Because there are no routine screening tests and few markers to identify groups with increased risk of ovarian cancers, most cases are found when they are beyond the point of curing. Age is one risk factor—more than half of all ovarian cancers are diagnosed in women over the age of 63. Heredity is another—10% to 15% of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer have one or more known genetic risk factors."

   I am assuming that I have to have both chemotherapy and radiation because I have two cancers. I will have a third chemo treatment on Wednesday. After this they will test me again - perhaps to see how successful the chemo has been?  Can they test for that? And then recommend which type of radiation to employ to destroy other types of cancer cells.  The radiation that was described to me sounds positively ghastly and impossible to describe in mixed company.  But the good thing is, radiation is much shorter at each sitting. Chemo takes five hours each time.





   Why did I title this "Getting Cancer Is Not Your Fault"?  Perhaps because the unfortunate part of my personal life is that I have both a sister and a daughter (and only one of each) who believe that my cancer is my own fault.  Had I been a better mother, a better sister, a better person in fact I wouldn't have contracted cancer. In some ways, I too believe this because my mother's sister died of ovarian cancer at the age of 50.  I should have been more vigilant in my own behalf.   I am finding many women have died of it, and some relatively young.  My sister claims she has gotten checked every year. Yet everyone admits THERE IS NO RELIABLE TEST FOR OVARIAN CANCER.  I WRITE THIS TOO BECAUSE I WANT WOMEN TO KNOW THAT THIS FORM OF CANCER IS NEARLY UNDETECTABLE.  WE NEED TO AGITATE TO GET MORE RESEARCH DONE.  I believe if men came down with this it's early detection would be solved! 

  Because of this I bristle when anyone tells me to THINK POSITIVELY, or STAY STRONG, YOU CAN FIGHT THIS.  To me this implies that I am TRULY at fault for my cancer, and that my will can win the fight against it.  This is highly UNLIKELY, and certainly not helpful. 
 
   My reference is BARBARA EHRENREICH - who wrote a wonderful book when she got breast cancer.  It is called Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking is Undermining Our Country.  I hope not to offend anyone who truly believes in the power of positive thinking.  Most of what I have experienced in my life around this type of thinking is that ultimately it is pushed on us to serve the bourgeoisie. Oh yes - have I told you lately that I believe in socialism?  Really, I believe in small-c communism as well, and I always have (since I read C.Wright Mills in high school).    More recently we in this country have been subjected to "mindfulness"  - another claptrap theory of the bourgeoisie to keep us from questioning the absolutely HORRENDOUS ACTS the 1% are perpetrating on the 99%.     But here is something of what Ehrenreich says [paraphrased on her website] :       "Americans are a “positive” people—cheerful, optimistic, and upbeat: this is our reputation as well as our self-image. But more than a temperament, being positive, we are told, is the key to success and prosperity."

   "In this utterly original take on the American frame of mind, Barbara Ehrenreich traces the strange career of our sunny outlook from its origins as a marginal nineteenth-century healing technique to its enshrinement as a dominant, almost mandatory, cultural attitude. Evangelical mega-churches preach the good news that you only have to want something to get it, because God wants to “prosper” you. The medical profession prescribes positive thinking for its presumed health benefits. Academia has made room for new departments of “positive psychology” and the “science of happiness.” Nowhere, though, has bright-siding taken firmer root than within the business community, where, as Ehrenreich shows, the refusal even to consider negative outcomes—like mortgage defaults—contributed directly to the current economic crisis.

   "With the mythbusting powers for which she is acclaimed, Ehrenreich exposes the downside of America’s penchant for positive thinking: On a personal level, it leads to self-blame and a morbid preoccupation with stamping out “negative” thoughts. On a national level, it’s brought us an era of irrational optimism resulting in disaster. This is Ehrenreich at her provocative best—poking holes in conventional wisdom and faux science, and ending with a call for existential clarity and courage."

    If you're not doing well it's because you sent out the wrong vibrations to the universe.  A secular religion. Diagnosis of breast cancer brought about her reaction to this philosophy - be positive, embrace your disease, you're going to come out of this a better person.  But she says, I didn't.  I came out nastier.  It doesn't boost your immune system.  It doesn't make you wealthier either.  Still have to get chemo - but think positively while you are getting it.  This is the opposite of what we should be telling people who have cancer.  WE SHOULD BE VALIDATING PEOPLES' FEARS!!!    Watch and listen to the interview with Ehrenreich on Democracy Now:


 



   "In “Bright-sided,” [Ehrenreich] traces the roots of the nation’s blithe sunniness to a reaction against Calvinist gloom and the limits of medical science in the first half of the 19th century. Starting with Phineas Parkhurst Quimby, perhaps one of the first American New Age faith healers, she draws a line to Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science; the psychologist William James; Ralph Waldo Emerson; Norman Vincent Peale, who published “The Power of Positive Thinking” in 1952; and the toothy television minister Joel Osteen, who preaches the gospel of prosperity."      

   "To Ms. Ehrenreich, the reliance on one’s personal disposition shifts attention from the larger social, political and economic forces behind poverty, unemployment and poor health care. “It can’t all be fixed by assertiveness training,” she said wryly."
[Related
Excerpt: ‘Bright-Sided’ (October 10, 2009)
Times Topics: Barbara Ehrenreich
The Sunday Book Review on ‘Bright-Sided’ (November 8, 2009)
Janet Maslin’s Review of ‘Bright-Sided’ (October 12, 2009)]

"Ms. Ehrenreich found that the more she listened, the surlier she became. All that shiny optimism, she said, was “like sitting in a warm bubble bath for too long.” Luckily she found other churlish comrades, scholars and doctors who were similarly skeptical of undimmed positivity. "

“We began to call ourselves the Negatives,” said Micki McGee, a sociologist at Fordham University and the author of “Self-Help, Inc.: Makeover Culture in American Life.” The group would meet on occasion and discuss their research and the news of the day. The thread of positive thinking that runs through self-help culture says, “If you dream it and believe it, it becomes reality,” Professor McGee explained. “That kind of thinking contributes to the economic bubble that we just saw explode in enormous ways. Barbara’s take on it is very important.”


   I am not interested in arguing with anyone since this blog is simply meant to express how I feel.  I think there isn't very much you can say to someone who has just been presented with a near-death sentence, or certainly a very bleak outlook for the near future -- and a great deal of pain and suffering.  Chemotherapy is not a cakewalk.  Slowly your body begins to destroy itself to get rid of both good and bad cells that might cause you to die.  You feel significant amounts of pain particularly if you already had same.  I have arthritis all over my body -- I often have to take pain pills to sleep [meaning a few times a year].  I have sought many many alternative treatments for pain, including acupuncture, chiropractic, naturopathy, hundreds of dollars worth of natural supplements:  glucosamine, MSM, turmeric, Boswellia, and more.  I have spent too much money trying to lessen the pain I feel all the time, every day, and especially when the barometer is changing.  Also when it is cold - at least for Los Angeles, when cold might mean 65 degrees. That is enough to keep me from sleeping.   Chemotherapy has the unfortunate effect on me of more than quadrupling the amount of pain I feel, so I have to writhe in pain for at least a week after each treatment.  Worse than a bad flu, I can only lie in bed and hope for sleep.

   So if I am unable to keep a bright and cheery outlook, if I sometimes snap at people, or refuse to see others, I hope I will be forgiven.  This is a completely new journey for me, and I have no idea if I will be one of the 70% who die, or the 30% who don't.  Because of this, I might decide to throw away everything I own, cash in all my money, and go for an extended (as much as possible) visit to the museums of Europe.






   

National Ovarian Cancer Coalition - http://www.ovarian.org  
Barbara Ehrenreich - Bright-Sided -- http://barbaraehrenreich.com/brightsided-by-barbara-ehrenreich/   
Author's Personal Forecast: Not Always Sunny, But Pleasantly Skeptical - http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/10/books/10ehrenreich.html?_r=3  
American Cancer Society - http://www.cancer.org  

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