Breast Cancer – Abstract and Personal

If you have been reading my blogs for awhile, you know that for a few years I wrote exclusively about breast cancer. The greatest gift of being an early member of the breast cancer blogosphere was the people I met – online and in person.  I’ve had the great fortune of interacting with Peggy Orenstein on occasion.  More than once, she has used the reach of her voice to expand the reach of mine, and of others.

Never has that been more true than yesterday, when Peggy’s monumental essay, “Our Feel-Good War on Breast Cancer” was published in the New York Times Magazine.  Peggy’s ambitious writing has the potential to change the world, to take charge of the conversation.

Please take time to read the whole thing.  It’s comprehensive, personal, political, medical, and what we need to understand to make real progress.

I wanted to post my favorite lines from the article, the ones that touched me and made me want to both cheer and cry. There’s the personal story of Peggy’s original diagnosis and recent recurrence. Her journey, that parallels mine, from believing that early detection is key to knowing all too tragically well that an early diagnosis doesn’t always matter.  Her examples of how the breast cancer industry thrives on creating fear.  How we turn healthy women into “cancer survivors.”  The dangers of over treating.  All of the obstacles to progress.  How little we really know about breast cancer.

Most of all, this stark reality of my existence.

Again, that means I should survive, but there are no guarantees; I won’t know for sure whether I am cured until I die of something else — hopefully many decades from now, in my sleep, holding my husband’s hand, after a nice dinner with the grandchildren.

I was all ready to celebrate Peggy’s work, a symbol of the growing tide of change.  It felt like victory until I received a harsh reminder that no matter how much progress we’ve made, it isn’t nearly enough. All of this has a tremendous personal cost.  I received an email from my friend Jody today. She is both an online and in-person friend. After 15 years of being cancer-free, she has just been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer.  Fifteen years.  Here’s how she concludes today’s blog post.

It has been difficult, and still is, to relate to this new information. Yet my life is different. How I prioritize will be different. One thing is steadfast: my commitment to #BCSM and advocacy. This is as strong if not stronger than ever. So is my knowledge that I am not alone in living with metastatic breast cancer. When there are times of complete stillness, I know all of you will be with me. That is how I feel about you. And that we are all in this together, in this moment and those to come.

3 thoughts on “Breast Cancer – Abstract and Personal”

  1. Katie,
    I have read your posts for the last couple years with awe for your eloquence and gratitude for your bravery. You have given me a new perspective on breast cancer, and I read Peggy’s article with great interest. Thank you for your words!

  2. Unfortunately, the likelihood of ‘real progress’ is curtailed by policies that drive innovative capacity from the system and discourage saving necessary for future investment.

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