I am 46 years old and originally from Chicago. I’ve lived in LA since 1988. My husband John (married nearly 25 years) is, in a word, amazing. He’s who has lifted me up, dragged and supported me not only through every minute of my cancer journey but also through all of the advocacy efforts; he’s a very good sharer! Our son Zach is 14 and is as passionate as I am about changing the face of breast cancer so that other children don’t ever have to live with a sick mom. They are my greatest blessings.
I was initially diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer in 2002. After chemo, bilateral mastectomy and five years of tamoxifen, I was “no evidence of disease” for about two years when my CA 15.3 marker started rising. We watched it go up over about 18 months before a scan indicated that I might have bone mets. A biopsy confirmed that in August 2011, and I’ve been back in treatment since then.
My introduction to Breast Cancer Action came by way of a donation made in my honor at the end of my treatment back in 2002. I didn’t think much of it, to be honest. That was until I saw what other organizations are like, how they capitalize on breast cancer sympathy, perpetuate the status quo, and do very little to focus on a cure. Many breast cancer charities, of course, focus their attention on supporting people going through treatment, and that’s really important work! But many others claim a “cure agenda,” yet fail to enact policies and fund projects that can make that happen.
I thought the Community Leaders for Change program would be an awesome opportunity to get the word out about how backwards and even counter-productive our “pink culture” has become. And since I like people, it was a great way for me to get out from behind my blog.
Cancer is defined by its propensity for change, and I fear that it will forever remain a step ahead of us. So while I’m not sure we’re going to cure it, I am nonetheless optimistic that we can do better. Much better. But we have to start caring more about our health and wellness than we do about our convenience. Perhaps my view is skewed by living within the cancer “bubble” but it seems to me we are seeing more and more cases, at younger ages, and more aggressive cancers. When our cancer rates in the “developed world” outpace those in other countries one has to wonder how much of this is about lifestyle. I’m not talking about blaming people for their life choices – there’s more than enough of that (just look at lung cancer!), but rather about our over-exposure to carcinogens. Here in California we have Prop 65, which requires businesses to warn consumers about known carcinogens in consumer goods, but these carcinogens are so pervasive that businesses such as stores and markets just slap a label on the building.
I want to shout from the hilltops! I’ll speak to anyone who will listen: we’ve got to change how we approach the breast cancer epidemic! We have to be wiser about how we treat the world around us because it’s all one system and it comes right back to how we treat ourselves. As someone with metastatic breast cancer, it’s too late for me. My cancer is considered incurable; it is my life’s companion now. But by using what time I have, while my health is still strong, I hope I can empower all of us to act before this epidemic gets even worse.