Pinktober

I am writing a whole long post on Pinktober and I hope to finish it in the next couple days, but in case I don’t, here’s a nutshell.

I am not opposed to breast cancer awareness month. I do get sick of the pink. Not every company that sells pink stuff is actually donating any of the proceeds to charity. I walk for the American Cancer Society because they personally reached out to me and had a positive impact on me during treatment. Yes a lot of these charities spend a lot of money on administration and marketing/outreach – they have to so that they can make money and actually help current sufferers. If all money went to research we still might not have a cure PLUS no one would be donating because they hadn’t heard of the charities PLUS current sufferers wouldn’t have anywhere to turn.

All that said OH MY GOD STELLA & DOT I AM DISGUSTED. I just started repping for Stella & Dot and did see they have a “Breast Cancer Awareness” line in rose gold (quite lovely, actually) with proceeds going to a charity called Bright Pink that is not yet ranked on Charity Navigator. A little shady but who knows, maybe it’s good. Then today I received a stylist email from them that contains the following phrase:

Here’s how Director, Annette Ultis, is following the 3 steps of prospecting using Breast Cancer Awareness to get her $1000!

First of all, way too many commas. And then, why not just say what you mean, gals? “Here’s how Director Annette Ultis is shilling our goods by exploiting people’s good nature and guilt for her (and our) profit!”

Absolutely abhorrent. Even though I have JUST invested in this company, I now have to consider if I want to continue working with them. They were supposedly founded by women for women, and really try to cultivate that “we’re all empowering each other” feeling, which has been a little shellacked but otherwise nice. This, however, is reprehensible. I replied and cc’ed my lead and will see how they reply, but I am feeling very betrayed and angry.

It’s funny because till now I have been very chill about Pinktober and pinkwashing – it happens, it’s the way it is, it’s not worth getting my nose all out of joint over. Thanks, S&D, for changing that for me. Grrr.

Anyhow. Feel free to join my walk team or make a donation to the ACS, which has PERSONALLY HELPED ME and other women I know with breast cancer, here: http://main.acsevents.org/goto/katejig

Beyond that, buyer beware. Check your charities and be sure the company you’re supporting is in it to help people – not just in pursuit of the almighty dollar.

 

Treatments and Seattle in the fall

I’ve now read about the treatments I am supposed to receive after I get the cancer out, which is unfortunate, because now I feel less like partying and more like crying.

First let me say that I am incredibly grateful. I am grateful this was caught early, I am grateful the only surgery I have to undergo is lumpectomy, I am grateful for the amazing support of my friends and family. I am grateful that, as yet, chemotherapy doesn’t look like a necessity (although that can of course change after the lymph node biopsy). I am grateful that I am strong enough and healthy enough to do the breast cancer walk this weekend (HINT HINT http://main.acsevents.org/goto/katejig). I am actually grateful for the cancer, weirdly enough, because it has made me even more appreciative for all the blessings of my life, for all the good I get to experience every day, and for the way it has extremely strangely strengthened my bond with my dead father. Having said all of that, I am about to whine a little. If that annoys you, no hard feelings, but stop reading now.

First of all, the radiation. Don’t do a Google image search for breast radiation photos if you’re going to have breast radiation. It will not make you feel any better. It will not make you feel any more prepared. It will only make you feel SAD. And scared. There are only mild pain-related effects: sunburn, sore ribs for a year (!), swelling, tenderness. There are more short-term cosmetic effects: red skin, dry skin, peeling, etc. Then there are also long-term effects which again are only cosmetic but which I still don’t want! And I don’t care if that makes me vain. As I mentioned previously, I spent my whole life not liking my boobs and then I had two kids and I FINALLY like them and get this:

Over time, you may notice firmness or shrinkage of the breast. You may also have mild tanning of the skin where the breast was treated or red discoloration, especially around the surgical scar(s). These changes may be permanent. – See more at: http://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/SideEffectsofRadiationTherapy.html#sthash.J2bLvWFm.dpuf

Awesome! So I could have one normal boob and one boob that is tan, hard, and small! This sounds like a fantastic deal. Those of you who know me well may know that I am obsessed with symmetry, so the idea of my body being completely asymmetrical in a place that will be clearly noticeable is setting my OCD to high.

But wait! There’s more!

Rare side effects

Although rare with modern treatment, radiation therapy can injure the normal tissues near the radiation field of the breast or chest wall. Rare side effects include:

Rib fracture occurs when the radiation weakens the rib cage near the treatment area.

Heart problems may develop years after radiation therapy is given to the left side of the chest. Multiple techniques are now used to limit this risk though.

Radiation pneumonitis (NOO-moh-NY-tis) is an inflammation of the lungs that can cause shortness of breath, a dry cough and low-grade fever. Severe symptoms can often be relieved by anti-inflammatory drugs. Radiation pneumonitis almost always goes away with time.

Very rare side effects include:

Brachial plexopathy (BRAY-kee-ul pleks-AH-path-ee) can happen when radiation damages nerves in the upper chest. It may cause tingling, pain and weakness in the affected hand and arm that is usually permanent.

These conditions may occur a few months or years after radiation therapy.

Radiation therapy and risk of a second cancer

In rare cases, radiation therapy can cause a second cancer. The most common cancers that have been linked to radiation therapy are sarcomas (cancers of the connective tissue) [18-19]. However, the risk of a second cancer is very small and the benefits of radiation therapy almost always outweigh the risks.

– See more at: http://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/SideEffectsofRadiationTherapy.html#sthash.J2bLvWFm.dpuf

Yes, I realize these side effects are rare, but you know what else is rare? Having a non-functioning gallbladder almost your entire adult life and finding out at 37. Having a ruptured ectopic pregnancy. Being an anglophile your entire life and then by chance meeting the man of your dreams and having him be British. All rare, yet all happened to me. So really, rare is relative.

The other post-surgical treatment they want me to undergo is taking Tamoxifen for five years. May I share with you my favorite Tamoxifen side effects? Well too bad, here they are:

Tamoxifen and antidepressant use

Some types of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can interfere with the metabolism of tamoxifen (how tamoxifen works in the body). Some SSRIs (such as fluoxetine (Prozac), buproprion (Wellbutrin), paroxetine (Paxil) and sertraline (Zoloft)) interfere with tamoxifen so much that they should be avoided while taking tamoxifen [58].

– See more at: http://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/Tamoxifen.html#sthash.CmD0irMy.dpuf

Super! I will totally go off my Prozac so that I can survive breast cancer, only to die by my own hand.

Figure 5.10 lists some possible side effects and health risks of tamoxifen in women.

 Figure 5.10: Side effects and health risks of tamoxifen in women

Common

Hot flashes and night sweats

Loss of sex drive

Vaginal discharge

Vaginal dryness or itching

Irregular periods or spotting (uterine bleeding)

Rare

Blood clots in the large veins (deep venous thrombosis)

Blood clots in the lungs (pulmonary emboli)

Bone loss (premenopausal women only)

Cancer of the uterus (uterine or endometrial cancer)

Cataracts

Stroke

Adapted from Rimawi MF and Osborne CK [66].

– See more at: http://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/SideEffectsofTamoxifen.html#sthash.8JHvUkpd.dpuf

Great! This is all great. This all sounds just – just totally manageable. Thank you, cancer. Thank you.

Oh and here’s this side effect from Wikipedia:

Central nervous system

Tamoxifen-treated breast cancer patients show evidence of reduced cognition,[37] a major side effect of tamoxifen, and semantic memory scores.[38]

So I guess, in a nutshell, this is why I am sad, scared, and angry: If I do all the recommended treatments, this is going to reduce the quality of a minimum of five years of my life. This isn’t like, okay, they take the lump out, I recover and move on. This is so much longer than that. Right now I have so much support and understanding and sympathy and compassion. But what about three years down the road when I have no libido and no one even really remembers that I had cancer? Will I feel lonely, depressed, isolated?

In the end: I am scared. I hate that this happened to me and that this happens to anyone. I hate that it took me getting breast cancer to even understand how long lasting the treatments and effects are. I hate that I feel powerless. And I really hate feeling whiny or ungrateful or petty but I feel like – I don’t know, like I am owed that, at least once. Because everything is relative and although I know a lot of women have it worse than I do, this still sucks, for me, right now.

Now go donate $5 to my Making Strides campaign to cleanse your soul after reading all my bitching. I’m going to atone by walking 3 miles in the rain tomorrow.  http://main.acsevents.org/goto/katejig

48 hours

MRI tomorrow, results Wednesday. Very anxious, but so excited and relieved to be moving forward. The waiting is torture.

A friend of mine, Cheryl, recently traveled to Eastern Europe and promised to light candles for me in the cathedrals and churches she visited. I have a very close friend, Susan, praying for me on the East Coast. Our nanny and close family friend Araceli has been praying for me with her Aztec group, and friends and family of hers are praying for me in Mexico. Basically, I have people all over the world sending me positive energy, as well as my Dad looking out for me from beyond the grave – and what better month for him to do so than October?!

Meanwhile, as many of you know, I have my big charity Halloween party, Black Cat Bash, coming up on 10/24, so that’s keeping me busy and focused. Equally importantly, I found out about and decided to walk in the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Breast Cancer Walk on 10/10 – this weekend. I am 79% to my goal of raising $1000, and have had so many friends and family make donations in my support – I can’t believe what generous, thoughtful, and supportive people I am blessed to have in my life. Sadly, not everyone is as lucky as I am, and it’s these women that the ACS helps support. If you have a few extra minutes and a few extra bucks, please consider making a donation – not just to support me, but also to help women all over the country who have been diagnosed with breast cancers far more serious and devastating than mine.

Kate’s Making Strides Page

To those of you who have already donated – thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your support in this fight means the world to me, and I know with you on my side I can’t lose.

Fingers crossed for good news Wednesday.

Sorry for the second post, but…

I changed the MRI back. I was only able to move it up by one week because I guess they’re so deluged with boob scans, and the more I thought about it, the more I was like, “Is it worth the possibility of incorrect results for one week?” And I decided it was not. Sigh. So wait I will continue to do.

IN THE MEANTIME! I am doing the Making Strides American Cancer Society Walk because I need to focus my energy in a positive direction. Okay so I know if you look up its charity rating it may not be the highest rated cancer charity. But it does get very high marks for transparency and accountability, and I think that they do a lot to raise awareness and provide resources for people suffering from cancer. And as someone who is currently suffering* from cancer, I am grateful for them and want to support what I see as a worthwhile organization by raising money and going out and walking with others whose lives have been affected by breast cancer.

Please consider joining my team or making a donation. You could make it honor of Sid, my cat who just died of kidney disease, which I know has nothing to do with breast cancer, but which would make me smile. Or you could make it in honor of someone you know who has battled breast cancer, because nowadays, it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t know someone. Here is the link again: http://main.acsevents.org/goto/katejig

Thanks in advance for your support!

*I am not really suffering, in all honesty. I mean emotionally and mentally, yes, but physically I wouldn’t know anything was wrong if I hadn’t found that blessed benign lump. I know this will change with surgery and treatment, but for now, physically, I am A-Okay.

Red and other things of note

Okay, first of all, I have decided MY color for fighting breast cancer isn’t pink – it’s red. Red is the color of anger, passion, and love. It’s the color of fire, blood, and life. Pink is nice and all – I like pink, I’m actually wearing pink right now – but red is serious. Red gets shit done. Red is emotion.

Second, I checked out my 23andme results last night – Julian and I did it a few years ago for funzies, and I forgot that they test for three of the BRCA mutations when you do it. First of all, interestingly, although I am about 98% white northern and western European, I am also 0.1% Ashkenazi – fascinating. But more importantly, with regard to the three BRCA mutations they test for, I came back negative on all of them. Now, the test they did yesterday – called “myRisk” – tests for a lot of other mutations, so there is possibly still bad news waiting to be delivered. But I told my doc about the 23andme results and he said they were very encouraging. Hey. I’ll take my good news where I can get it!

I saw an ad on a bus yesterday for the Seattle Making Strides Breast Cancer Walk, put on by the American Cancer Society. I signed up for it today, but now I am sort of thinking maybe I am overcommitting myself. I am again co-producing the benefit Halloween party for the Seattle Humane Society this year on 10/24 (The Black Cat Bash), and, you know, I have cancer. It’s only a 3.7 mile walk though and I think if I could rally a team it would really help me feel like I was doing something useful and proactive while I wait for news and treatment. So if you’re interested in joining me in fundraising and walking on Saturday, October 10, please let me know. It would mean a lot to me.

That’s all I got today – a million things to take care of and not nearly enough time. Off I go!