All posts tagged: The C Word

Nice to Meet You, I Have Cancer

It was the first time I’d been out to a restaurant since having a cyst removed, and only a few days after learning I had ovarian cancer. > Insert record scratch sound here < Yeah, I know, I know. That’s some big news right there. But hold on, let me finish my lede… I’d spent the last week and a half recovering from surgery and, up until that November night, had been pretty much down for the count. A Percocet-induced haze of Broad City binge-watching and crushing fatigue. So by the time my friend Shelly came to Brooklyn for a visit, I was ready to shake up my bed-couch-bed routine and feel somewhat normal again. What I wasn’t quite ready for was having to share my big news with the outside world. We decided to go to a red booth and burger joint right around the corner from our apartment — a place where my husband and I were semi-regulars and would often sit at the bar and order dinner. I’d gotten to know Tommy the bartender a bit, a …

The Devil You Know: Why I Chose to Remove Both Breasts

I had a double mastectomy with reconstructive surgery in December of 2009. I’m not a survivor, I did not have cancer. I am genetically inclined to get it, so I guess if anything, I am a pre-survivor — this was a proactive surgery. I never looked at my decision as brave. I just played the shitty card in the hand that I was dealt. A few years before my surgery, my mom was diagnosed with stage-3 breast cancer. Her mother passed away at age 44 of ovarian cancer. It was pretty obvious I was a vulnerable branch on the cancer family tree. The first decision I had to make was whether I should have the genetic testing done. For me, it was a no brainer; I believe the devil that you know is better than the devil that you don’t. No longer did I want to catch and beat cancer — I wanted to deny it the chance to play at all. I tested positive for the BRCA1 gene. In a nutshell, this means I …

Random Acts of Cancer

I went to a memorial service today for my friend, Jeanne, who died two days before Christmas from brain cancer at the age of 58. Her sister spoke, as did her closest friends and her children, but it was something her husband said that stayed with me: “I used to think things happen for a reason. Now, I believe things just happen.” To me, those words underscore the randomness of cancer. With the exception of people who practice risky behaviors that increase their chances of getting cancer, the rest of us can only hope that luck is on our side. Cancer strikes with ferocious democracy — it doesn’t care how young we are or whether we’re complete innocents or evil to the core. I’m not the only one who thinks so. Many scientists believe in the randomness of cancer, too. Last year, researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine used a statistical model to determine that random mutations may account for two-thirds of the risk for getting many types of cancer, leaving heredity and …

That Time I Was Radioactive

Right now I am radioactive and waiting for a PET scan. I’ve been anxious about this test since I’ve known I would be taking it. I found a thickening in my left breast on Labor Day. It wasn’t a lump, but it was clearly out of place. I didn’t really think it was anything, but I googled it and discovered that breast cancer doesn’t always present as a lump. My regularly scheduled mammogram was only six weeks away, but I am not great with uncertainly. Six weeks of waiting would be intolerable. I called the radiologist as soon as I knew the office would be open, and when I described what I had found, she squeezed me in first thing in the morning two days later. I arrived to an almost empty office. As other patients came and went over the next four hours, I shuttled back and forth between repeated mammograms, ultrasounds and the dreaded waiting room. I cooperated as they put my breasts and arms into increasingly uncomfortable positions. Finally, the doctor asked …

How My Husband’s Cancer Changed Me — For the Better

At the start of 2014, I celebrated my half-century birthday. My New England home was packed to the rafters with friends, both old and new, family, music and food. I was enveloped in love and felt buoyantly optimistic about the upcoming year(s). My husband of 25-plus years, Ken, was starting a new senior role at a growing startup. I had launched a fledgling consulting business with a bunch of amazing clients. I had committed — finally— to getting on the biking bandwagon and going on a 62-mile race with my biking obsessed hubby. It was promising to be quite a year. Less than a month later, we learned that the funky little squamous cell carcinoma that my husband had removed from his lip two years earlier, to little fanfare, had metastasized. Stage IV cancer. The cells had spread into at least four lymph nodes. As a world-class problem-solver and fixer, I shifted into high gear. I researched and ranked doctors and surgical centers as my hubby, alternatively numb and angry, struggled to make decisions about …

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Margit’s Note: The C Word

Hey you, it’s been a while. I’m back and back with a bang. You can see why here. Spoiler alert, though, this week is all about the C Word. That word we hate to hear, to utter: Cancer. It’s a big, spreading, ugly black mass of a concept, and something we know very little about — until we have to know something about it. And then we Google. A lot. As we get older, we know more and more people who have it — our friends and loved ones, our freaking musical heroes. We harangue our doctors to check out every inch of our bodies (justifiably, I might add), we have elective surgery to prevent any possible sightings. Something I’ve learned in the last month: Cancer is a big thing, but it’s also just a thing. I used to look at people who’d experienced cancer from a distance. If I’d met them at the same time that I learned they had cancer, it was the cancer that overshadowed them, walked into the room first. But …