F@#k You, Cancer

Warning: this post contains explicit language. If you are reading this aloud to your young children – why? If you would like the bleeped-out version, too bad.

Fuck you, Cancer.

You stole so much from me, and then you took my friend Carrie. Carrie Lynne Ladd passed away from peritoneal cancer on April 8, 2018. Carrie was Tina’s best friend, co-worker of 27 years, and one-quarter of our foursome who, along with Carrie’s partner Natalie, we vacationed with, tried new restaurants with, hung out with.

Italy
Italy
Hawaii
Hawaii
Disneyland
Disneyland

Carrie called me “Little Sprout.” ‘How’s it going, Little Sprout?’ ‘What are you doing today, Little Sprout?’  These are the words I hear still, every time I think about her. What I wouldn’t give to hear that again. Fuck you, cancer.

I will soon have lived longer than my friend who was 21 months older than me. This doesn’t make any sense.  The universe is off course. Fuck you, cancer.

She was burned up at 1800 degrees – I don’t know why I know that, but hearing it hit me hard. I don’t like picturing it, but I do. Seeing her ashes hit me hard too.  How can all the essence of one’s life be reduced to the contents of a hot chocolate canister?  It’s not, of course. I know it’s just the physical shell in there, but it still hits me hard. Fuck you, cancer.

Okay, so all the Fuck Yous, right? Cancer is such an asshole!

But my question is WHY? Why does cancer get to kill so haphazardly? Is it just a big cosmic game of whack-a-mole where some escape and some don’t? Why can’t cancer take all the shitty people in the world? The child molesters, rapists and murderers? Why Carrie? It almost seems beyond random – as if the Universe chose her for being such an amazing person. Fuck you, cancer.

#FuckCancer – it’s a great hashtag, T-shirt design, even a nonprofit committed to working for early detection and prevention of cancer. All that is good and fine, and how I personally feel most of the time.

hand-lettering-fuck-cancer

But let me tell you how Carrie lived with cancer. While there’s no denying Carrie was a fighter, she also had a peace and acceptance about the disease that grew, shrunk and grew again in her body.  I learned from her that there is something peaceful about accepting one’s circumstances – about accepting that you are probably going to die from cancer. Though Carrie’s decision to stop chemo was a jolt to us, it was a logical and timely decision for her – why continue to put toxins in your body if they are not doing their job? So she accepted it with grace.

Carrie2

And acceptance doesn’t mean giving up. It just means she came to terms with her circumstances and recalculated … just as my GPS regularly does when I take a route other than the one initially intended. That decision brought Carrie some peace. It brought her new direction and focus. And that was the right choice for her. Because peace is less stressful and more sustainable than war, and love is more powerful than hate.

karen-Carrie

Every cancer patient has to find their own way through the labyrinth of emotions, medications, decisions, uncertainty, turmoil. Carrie and I took different paths – physically and emotionally.  And I’m still angry at cancer. I still hate; I have not made peace.

Because, fuck you, cancer.

F@%k Cancer!

Sorry for my language, but this is a journal, and that’s how I feel right now.

On Monday, we got word that my lymph node tested during surgery was negative, which (we thought) meant no chemo or radiation. But we met with the oncologist on Wednesday, who is recommending chemotherapy because I tested positive for HER2 (explained below for those who don’t speak Breast Cancer).  It was like a sucker punch KO to us – completely unexpected and devastating.

About 1 of 5 breast cancers have too much of a growth-promoting protein called HER2 (yep, I’m just that lucky).  Cancers that are HER2-positive tend to grow and spread more aggressively than other breast cancers. My original test came back equivocal, but the second test they ran came back positive.

I was officially diagnosed with stage 1 cancer, my tumor being 1.5 cm with no lymph node cancer cells present, normally not requiring radiation or chemo.  But because of my HER2+ status, chemo is indicated.

The oncologist explained the case for chemo this way: The mastectomy and negative lymph node results lowered my chances of getting cancer again by 80%, the remaining 20% being the possibility of rogue cancer cells having escaped and are currently traversing my body.  The presence of estrogen and HER2 both encourage these cells’ growth and proliferation, so Estrogen and HER2 blockers will bring the risk down to about 12%, and chemotherapy will further reduce it down to about 5%.  It’s inexact, obviously, but those are the estimates.

Dr. Hui, my oncologist, gave us a choice of 2 different chemo regimens, one (Taxol/Herceptin) more tolerable but less effective for aggressive cancers, and the other (TCH) the full chemo package with all side effects included.  Tough choice! Being my naturally curious self, I have asked her a bunch of questions about both, so we are awaiting her answers as she researches my particular case in relation to recent clinical trials and in conference with the other oncologists in her office.

Probably not the last sucker punch we’re in for…I had no idea how much emotional weight was carried in my bra!

Here we go…