Friday, October 1, 2010

October: It's What and Who You Know

I have a good feeling that my mother would be here today if she hadn't been afraid to know. I am not putting words into her mouth when I tell you that she would say she didn't want to go to the doctor because she was afraid he would find something; I know that because she once told me, "If I go to the doctor, he's going to find something."

Her breast cancer was fairly advanced when she finally went. She didn't like being poked and prodded and didn't like the indignity of it all. Accordingly, my beautiful and intelligent mother is not here. Intelligence wasn't the issue; she was simply very scared.

When my mammography doctor suggested that I get genetic testing because of my family history (both grandmothers as well), I didn't really give it a second thought. I knew if it was positive that a radical bilateral mastectomy was an option. If the test was negative, they would suggest yearly MRIs. I learned from my mother that the best thing to do is to know.

What I wasn't expecting was this - in either case, the preventative measures that are suggesting for me result in a forced, early menopause. I am way too young. If I am positive for the genetic mutation for breast cancer, they suggest having my ovaries removed due to the breast cancer/ovarian cancer link. That will put me into menopause. If I am negative for the genetic mutation for breat cancer, they suggest I consider a drug called tamoxifin, which will put me into menopause.


But here's the thing (like, the thing in addition to forced menopause, drugs and the surgery), this all costs $$$$. It wasn't the idea of any of the other stuff that knocked me on my ass - the hardest part to swallow is that, on my own, I wouldn't be able to afford any of it. Of course, because I am married, I have someone to help me find a way.

One of the reasons that I became a lawyer was so that I would always be able to take care of me and my son. Yet here I am. I am not dwelling on the lay off. I am past that here. The point is, despite everything I did to secure my financial stability, and the health and safety of me and my son, it wasn't enough - you can only plan for so much. Everything can change in an instant.

On my own, on my current salary, I am most of America, living pay check to pay check, unable to afford the preventative measures that I need without a signifcant hardship.

I am not, however, on my own. Tonight I am having chocolate cake and champagne with my husband. On Sunday we will pick up my son from his dad's and take him to his last fall baseball game. We're all in this together.


  1. Yikes and yikes again. Where's option C?! It's better to know, sure, but it would be nice if you had better choices.

    A group of law students wanted to know about contract lawyering and paying for health benefits. (Because the law school touts contract lawyering as a "lifestyle" choice and alternative to full time employment.) I said, "I married a federal employee." Laughter. Except it wasn't a joke.

  2. Boo to early menopause. I'm definitely with EH on choice C. Or second opinions. Or something.

    But. Early menopause is better than cancer. Probably.

  3. My mom is battling incurable, metastasized breast cancer.

    F*ck breast cancer.

  4. Juliet,

    I wish that I lived in Pretty Big City so that we could go for coffee this morning. I am sending love your way, and thinking of you lots. Love, Me

  5. It's depressing how even when we think medicine is so far advanced now, the only way to prevent or fix it, is something really unpleasant. :(