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Friday, November 24, 2006


My Friend has Breast Cancer

My friend has breast cancer. She just turned 50. This year she also lost her job, saw her eighty-something father through getting a pace-maker and broke her foot. All these events took place in a mere 4 month span. Talk about stress!
At this particular moment the news is "good". The internist actually told her "if you had to get breast cancer, this is the best one to get"! I'm no expert, by any means, but that sounded like an oxymoron to me. There's a "good" type?
The radiologist tried to calm my friend's fears as much as possible-explaining that she was fortunate enough that it was caught in an extremely early stage. According to the mammogram, the sonogram and the biopsy, that it's very tiny and localized. Both of these first two doctors said that since these were all signs of an excellent prognosis they felt that a lumpectomy would be all she would need. Of course, this was also followed by "unless the surgeon feels differently and thinks some radiation might be warranted".
When she e-mailed me with the news, I felt a wave of nausea myself. After all, I'm but a mere year younger so I felt her terror and the terror of wondering who could/would be next to announce this type of news. Being a writer my way of coping was to start researching the web for types, treatments, groups and outcomes for an article.
Many of the websites talked about the varied types, stages and treatments. Too numerous to become an expert on for the most part. Since my friend is still in the "numb" stage, as she puts it, she hasn't told me which type she has contracted. But when she does, I will go to some of the more user-friendly sites (I liked Susan G. Komen and The City of Hope) and start my detail searching there.
As the patient that's also the line of attack my co-hort has decided on. She wants to know the what-ifs, what-abouts and what are the closest support groups around her. As a single woman she fortunately has built up a very strong base of other single women to have nearby. Which is as necessary as it wonderful. However, she will probably also benefit from attending meetings of others who are "in the same boat".
I say this mainly from my own experience with a very different disease. I have Rheumatoid Arthritis. I have been very fortunate to have a very supportive family base. My husband gives me my weekly injections. My grown children are more than willing to pitch in to help with a meal and laundry. I've learned to not be quite so controlling and let some of what I have always considered to be "my job" get farmed out to others who are more able-bodied. But what really helps are my two support friends. We've never actually met face to face, but we've known each other for over six years now and it's our cyber-connection that has seen us through some times that our families quite simply cannot understand! We met via a now defunct Rheumatoid Arthritis website
We are all 49. One married, no children. One single. And me. We share many things, all of which help us get through the bad days and make the good ones seem all the brighter. I cheered one lady on when she decided to take her hobby of painting and go professional. One cheered me on when I decided to rejuvenate my writing career after a 26 year hiatus. I was in the rooting sections when one went back to college to earn her degree. Both were online telling me that starting my ENBREL injections would put me back into a more "normal" routine and told me stories about their positive reactions and remissions due to the taking of stronger medications.
So while I am still going to have to work on becoming more knowledgeable on my friend's disease, I know one of the best things I can provide her with is a list of breast cancer support groups that she can contact and get involved with right away. Even if they will be an anonymous support group, they will give her invaluable comfort, and information that she would probably not receive from the medical community.
I am also hoping that when the new year begins, she finds a sense of strength and renewal that will be a positive outcome.

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