Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Is there something in the water?

I was telling you I heard from an old friend who is battling breast cancer. We've been playing phone tag for months, but finally caught up a few days ago.It is actually a recurrence of breast cancer. She had her right breast removed last May and then unfortunately it came back in the lymph nodes. Chemotherapy didn't work, so now she's having surgery in a few weeks.

My friend, I'll call her Devadatta, is one of the most amazing women I've ever met. We met through her sister ages ago while I was living in Toronto. It was because of her that I got to move into my dream first apartment in High Park. And it was because of her that I got a good job that paid me decent money. She was like a big sister in a way. She always listened to me, never judged me, and was always up for a good time. She was also very, very wise. Spiritual in a way I never knew before. This woman gave up a full time job paying good money, gave away most of her possessions, her apartment and went in search of spiritual learning. She would go away with her guru and learn lomi-lomi massage. Her older sister thought she was a little crazy, but I always admired her search for peace and happiness. This woman had lovers, not boyfriends. I was in awe of her. And she always managed to keep her old boyfriends as friends. She's Jamaican and can switch back and forth from the King's English to patois in a heartbeat.

I always wished I could have been there for her more, but I was already well settled into Vancouver when she was first diagnosed. I tried to get back at least once a year to see her and other friends. This cancer thing was a mysterious thing, something I could not relate to. She was tired in a way I had never seen before, but still funny. I assumed she would beat it and move on. I mean, she was pretty healthy, ate right, did yoga and all that. I chanted lots of daimoku for her.

So when I heard from her and found out she was back in chemotherapy, I got really worried. This was not supposed to happen. She already lost a breast, isn't the worst behind her? And then last week another Buddhist friend of mine told me she was just diagnosed with breast cancer. And a local celebrity, Bif Naked, went public with her breast cancer diagnosis. (I don't know her personally, but I see her around town from time to time.) She's only 36, crazy in shape and a vegan. This is getting crazy. And of course, I got the dreaded phone call to come back for an ultrasound. I'm a little freaked out. Most of the well known women who go public with their breast cancer diagnosis are fit, can afford to eat organic and probably do, and take care of their health. My Buddhist friend said she thought it was the wine she drank. I let her know that that couldn't be the cause. So much for living a healthy lifestyle. I told Devadatta all this and she just got pissed, really angry. Was there something in the freaking water?!

I would often read all the material in magazines during October, the breast cancer awareness month. After all, I was entering mammogram territory now at this age. I wanted to be educated, I checked out my breasts often. Often enough, hard to say now.

And yes, I know, I'm fine. I'm fine. And I will stay fine. But a lot of women aren't. And a few nights ago, I cried myself to sleep. Because of their pain and also because I'm scared of not being fine. If you've experienced infertility, you know the pain of your body not doing what it's supposed to. You know what it's like to deal with the doctors, the tests, the poking, the prodding. The loss of control. But it wasn't going to kill you, was it?

I don't care much for the colour pink.


Teendoc said...

My sister is a breast cancer survivor. She was diagnosed at 34 with no family history. She is doing fine now with a good prognosis, thank god. But I wear my pink in support of her strength.

Pamela T. said...

I am so sorry to hear about your friends' cancer. And, yes, it does seem, sadly, that we're hearing more and more in the way of this diagnosis. New biomarkers are being discovered every day to help identify those with the greatest genetic risk so that treatment if needed can begin as early as possible and with higher success rates. Until those tests are more widely available, I have been getting mammograms religiously since turning 40. My next one is in five weeks. I'm glad to hear you've been vigilant, too!

OHN said...

I wonder about the same thing. Look at the YOUNG girls reaching puberty at 10-11 years old. Teen boys with full beards etc. I am very worried about the effects the hormones that are in our animals and in our milk are doing to us.