Category Archives: Breast Cancer

Out of Sync With Pink: One


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[Image Credit:  Fabricandart.com]

Dear Readers,

Please read this post first:   The Problem With Pink.

Last year,  I devised what I thought was a very clever and original title for a series of posts regarding Breast Cancer Awareness.

However, last week, I  “Googled” the phrase, “The Problem With Pink” and discovered, to my dismay, that several other writers have already used that title.

So, I asked for brainstorming ideas from my sister, who provided this title for the series:  “Out of Sync With Pink.”  Thanks, Susan!

. . . I am “Out of Sync With Pink” because of this concern:

The philosophy behind the ceaseless flow of commercial products and advertisements, which target the Breast Cancer Population.  

We, as Breast Cancer Patients, float upon — and threaten to drown under– an undulating river of Free Pink Plastic Products.

I do not wish to appear ungrateful and cynical — however, I am smart enough to realize that I am a target and the ultimate goal is profit.

My strongest objection is focused upon:

The advertising campaigns which recommend “feel-good” Glamour Products as “the best treatment” for Breast Cancer Patients.

I object to these campaigns because they trivialize the potentially deadly nature of Breast Cancer and the devastating nature of the required therapies.

Breast Cancer Patients endure therapies that include surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation.  We endure complications, ER visits, hospitalizations, short-term side effects and long-term side effects.

In what universe would Glamour Products be “the best treatment” for a woman walking through this nightmare?

If I may be so bold:

I will “speak up” for my Breast Cancer Sisters . . .

. . . We long for the day when this “ceaseless flow of commercial products and advertisements” will stop.

. . . We envision a time when the money invested would instead be diverted into Breast Cancer Research, in order to save the lives of women:  in this generation and the next.

. . .We look forward to a time when research will improve the quality of life and health of women who are struggling with the devastating side effects of therapies.

Yet in the meantime . . . .

. . . If we lose one or both of our breasts, we submit to Reconstructive Surgery or, at the very least, we have the decency to wear our Prosthetic/s.

. . . During the course of Chemotherapy, we agree to wear wigs or hats in public, to hide the shameful sight of our bald heads.

. . . We agree to wear Glamour Products so that we will appear to look good — even if we feel dreadful.

We hide the ravages of Breast Cancer and its therapies so that no one will see.  

And, as a consequence, people forget what Breast Cancer does to women.

Example:  I am a swimmer and people sometimes ask me:  “Are you careful to ‘cover up’ in the Pool Locker Room?”

The answer is “No” but I  find that implication in that question full of irony for this reason:

— Before surgery, I would have offended no one if I had walked onto the Pool Deck, wearing a revealing bathing suit, which shamelessly displayed  the cleavage of my bounteous breasts.

— But after surgery, I must offend no one:  I must “cover up” in the Pool Locker Room, to hide the view of my “shameful” scarred and concave chest.

Because no one wants to see what Breast Cancer does to women.  We want to forget.

Please do not misunderstand me:  I am NOT suggesting that Breast Cancer Patients “bare all”  and become visual “Poster Children” for Breast Cancer Awareness.

If you have had Reconstructive Surgery, I salute you.  If you wore a hat during Chemotherapy, as I did, I understand.  If you have mastered the art of applying eye brow powder, I say, “Well done!”

However, together we can send a strong message to the “For-Profit” Corporations:  

“I refuse to accept ‘Free Plastic Pink Products,’ which focus merely upon my ‘appearance.’

Deliver, instead, substantial help to this generation of Breast Cancer Patients and to the next.  

Contribute, instead, to Breast Cancer Research, to significantly increase the longevity of and improve the lives of women:  now and in the future.”

 

Coram Deo,

Margot Blair Payne,

for Breast Cancer Awareness Month:  October  2013

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Filed under Breast Cancer, Cancer, Chemotherapy, Mastectomy

The Problem With Pink

Dear Readers,

You say you are tired of October and all the Pink Ribbons?  You say you are relieved that  November is finally here?  Well, I hear you!  

Yet, we should be grateful for the Pink Ribbons, despite their profuse, plastic tacky-ness, for they have accomplished their purpose:  By now, everyone, I sincerely hope, is aware that one out of eight women WILL be diagnosed with Breast Cancer.

Yet, the pink bumper-stickers continue to puzzle and irritate me:  “Save the Ta-Tas!”  

Why are we still so silly about the word, “breasts?”   I should not have to list the other euphemisms . . . and I will not.

That is one of the Problems With Pink.

“Save the Ta-Tas!”   That is, indeed, an excellent idea:  Women should learn how to do regular Breast Self-Examinations [BSE] and should submit to regular Mammograms.   We should contribute to Breast Cancer Research.

However, the time to “Save the Ta-Tas” is nowbefore a Breast Cancer Diagnosis.  The sober fact is that, once a woman receives a Breast Cancer Diagnosis, it may well be too late to “Save the Ta-Tas.”  

After the diagnosis, we immediately shift the focus: “Save a Woman’s Life!”

A woman, faced with a Breast Cancer Diagnosis, is willing to give up both of her breasts, if necessary, to save her LIFE.

I will be honest here:  The prospect, three years ago, of a bilateral mastectomy traumatized me.  The surgery is daunting yet it pales, in comparison, to the ravages of chemotherapy.

The spectre of chemotherapy mortified me and it was, indeed, more terrifying than I could ever imagine.

After I survived the surgery and the chemotherapy, there remained very few things, of which I was afraid.  I am certainly not afraid of facing my life without breasts.  Before the surgery, my breasts did not define me.  The loss of those breasts certainly will not define me now.

I have no Breast Reconstruction:  My bust area is concave and my collar bones are now more prominent than the place of my incision scar.  I can feel each one of my ribs.  By touching my hand to my chest, I can feel my heart not merely beating — I can actually feel my heart pumping.  [I mention these details to remind folks that not every woman is a candidate for Reconstructive Surgery.]

~~~~~~~~~~~

When I was going through chemotherapy, I received offers of make-up lessons and free samples.  The good-hearted folks extending these offers assumed, perhaps, that my first waking thought in the morning was,  “Am I going to feel pretty and girlish today?”  

And that is another Problem With Pink.

I refused the offers — kindly, I hope.  My first waking thought in the morning was, instead, “Am I going to survive chemotherapy today?”  and “Will I live long enough to hold my second grandchild?”

I recently stumbled across a blog, written by a young woman, in which she listed her fears.  Her top two fears?   Wrinkles and grey hair.   She was fearful of the inevitable aging process, against which she has absolutely no control.

I am more fortunate than that young woman:  I know now what to fear and what not to fear.

I should not have to point out that some Breast Cancer Patients may not live long enough to enjoy the luxury of obsessing over their wrinkles and grey hair.

Now, can we stop being so silly about wrinkles and grey hair . . . and about the word, “breast?”

Can we now turn our attention to protecting the health of women and on saving the lives of women?    

To focus on all things “pink and girly” and “the Ta Ta’s” is to view women as bifurcated beings.  But we are integrated beings, endowed not only with bodies but also with intelligence, creativity, strength, wisdom, imagination, and a myriad of other gifts.

I have identified the problem and, in future blog entries, I will offer practical suggestions to women, on how we can protect the health of our breasts and how we can support and encourage the strong and heroic women among us:  those battling Breast Cancer.

Coram Deo,

Margot

 

 

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Milestones

Dear Readers,

There are dates of significant historical events that, I suppose, will never be expunged from my  mind:

October 31, 1517:

December 7, 1941:

November 22, 1963:

I’m leaving the “events” blank, in hopes that An Alert Reader will fill in those blanks!

There is one date, however, that is mine alone to remember.  It is significant and burned into my memory.  However, rest assured: I do not expect any greeting cards, phone calls, or gifts.

The date is June 2, 2009 and I just celebrated the Three-Year Milestone, past my original Breast Cancer Diagnosis.

The Third Year is significant because my oncologist, Dr. Robert Carroll, told me, after my mastectomy, that my Breast Cancer was very aggressive.  Without chemotherapy, he said, I had a 41% risk of having a recurrence, within two years of the diagnosis.  Within the ensuing two years after a possible recurrence, I would be . . . . well . . . “gone.”  [Even oncologists, it appears, revert to euphemisms.]

I dislike sounding sentimental.  Yet, in all honesty, what a gift are these “extra” years of life!

I do not mind telling you that I will celebrate another significant milestone this year:  I will soon achieve 60 years of age.

I do not expect any greeting cards, phone calls, or gifts for this milestone, either.

However, please have the goodness to be happy for me!  I consider my next birthday to be neither tragic nor humorous.  The gift of 60 years of life on this earth, to enjoy my family and friends:  What a rich blessing!

You may complain about your age, your silver hair, and your wrinkles. But you probably should not complain around me.

It is all a matter of perspective.  And, from where I sit, the prospect of aging is a very bright one, indeed.

Coram Deo,

Margot

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Offering Hope

Dear Tallahassee Friends,

Please join me at the following event, which will benefit and offer hope to breast cancer patients and their families.

Coram Deo,

Margot

Living Well Fashion Show and Luncheon

 Sponsored by The Joanna Francis Living Well Foundation*

http://www.joannafrancislivingwell.org

 

Goodwood Cottage @ Goodwood Gardens and Museum — Tallahassee, FL

Valentine’s Day, Tuesday, February 14, 2012

11:30 AM – 1:30 PM

General Admission Tickets: $50

Purchase Tickets:

Email:  LivingWellinTally@yahoo.com,

Or Phone:  Michelle Pullam — 850.210.2062,

Or at Cotton Etc, Cole Couture, Narcissus, Haute Headz, or Spriggs

 *The Joanna Francis Living Well Foundation:

 “Living Well” is a compounding relief fund, which provides social assistance primarily for metastatic breast cancer patients who have “school to college aged” children.

 The goal of the foundation is rooted in the desire to help patients and families benefit from financial relief for social services. The purpose of the foundation is to provide opportunities of support and financial assistance for unforeseen living expenses, while living with terminal breast cancer. Living with cancer is not an independent experience. The hope of the foundation is to help create and develop a universal concept of care, by means of involving a community of navigators. The offering of support comes in many different manners, which will in turn help the patient and family members achieve a renewal of spirit for hope and healing.

 The “Living Well” was created to help others face each day with courage. There are so many ways in which to experience the journey of cancer, recognizing it as a tarnished blessing. It is important to grow emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. The foundation will provide a continuing reservoir of replenishment for patients, families and others who are encountering a similar path so that we are all “living well.”

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Unsung Heroes

Dear Faithful Family & Friends,

I have enjoyed researching and writing the entries for the series, “The Heroes Among Us.” I know that you, my readers, enjoyed them, also, so I plan to highlight a hero from time to time.

Last month, I had the pleasure of spending several hours writing snail-mail thank-you notes to family & friends.  I have kept a careful record of all the benefactors, listing each expression of care and compassion.  The list is a reminder of God’s good gift to us:  in the midst of our affliction, we give thanks for each one of you who has prayed for us, read this blog, communicated encouragement to us, or sent/delivered a gift [food, bread, book, DVD, etc.].  I keep a box of your communiques [cards, notes, letters, photos] and I eagerly read and re-read each one! Over the past six months, each of you has ministered to us and we are deeply thankful for each of you.  You are the “unsung heroes” who give us strength, courage, and resolve!

Speaking of “unsung heroes,” my husband, Stephen, has certainly been one of these!  During the past six months, on top of his other responsibilities, he has been entirely devoted to my care.  He has encouraged, advised, cheerfully served me and, when necessary, tenderly nursed me back to health, especially during those scary chemotherapy illnesses.  I’ll never forget how, during the virus/high fever of last month, he never left my side. So often, he would come into my room, just to kiss my little bald head.  Looking back on it, I think he might have been also checking my forehead temperature, but no matter — it was very comforting!

As you continue to pray for me, please remember that I am not yet “out of the woods!”  After my surgery, the OncoType diagnostic tool indicated that I had a HIGH [41%] risk of recurrence for breast cancer. Phase One, four rounds of “the big guns” of chemotherapy plus Phase Two, one year of infused Herceptin plus Phase Three, five years of [the oral pill] Tamoxifen are all designed to decrease that unacceptably high risk.  Even though the phase of “the big guns” is over, we need to pray together that the combined effect of all three phases will accomplish the work of reducing the risk of a recurrence.

My next infusion of Herceptin will be 01.25.10.  The previous infusion [01.04.10] of Herceptin alone [without the two chemotherapy drugs] was exactly as Dr. Carroll predicted:  “You won’t even know you are on it.” I am very glad to report that he was correct!  I never skipped a beat, so to speak.  Every three weeks, until 10.01.10, I will travel to Gainesville for Herceptin and I plan to drive by myself; it is an easy 2 & 1/2 hour trip [one-way].

I am fully recovered from my virus of last month.  I am sleeping well, eating well, and I look forward to returning to swimming, ballet, and Pilates!

Coming soon on this blog:  Family photographs and family newsletter!

Coram Deo,

Margot

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Filed under Breast Cancer

The Heroes Among Us: First In a Series

Dear Faithful Praying Family & Friends,

Stephen & I travel to Gainesville, FL [tomorrow, Sunday] for me to begin chemotherapy, on Monday morning at 9.50 AM at Dr. Carroll’s office. You remember that I will participate in a clinical trial?  I was “randomized” into the group that will receive four drugs vs. three. 

Phase OneThree months [six rounds] of therapy, with four infused drugs.  Each round will include one full day [six hours] followed by a rest period of three weeks.  Phase One begins Monday, 09.21.09 and ends Monday, 01.04.10.

Phase TwoNine months of therapy, with two infused drugs.  Each round will include one-half day [three hours] followed by a rest period of three weeks.  Phase Two begins Monday, 01.25.10 and ends in September 2010.

Phase ThreeFive years of one oral drug, no infusion.  Phase Three will begin September 2010 and will end September 2016.

 I am dedicating each of the first Six Rounds in Phase One to a hero or heroine.   Round One is dedicated to:

Alton Bernard “Nobby” Blair [1919-2006] and Margaret Elizabeth “Peg” Van Hoy Blair [1918-2005]

Descending from hard-working NC farm folk, Nobby was the first family member to attend college.  He wrote a letter home from Guilford College to his parents, in 1943, telling them that he would soon be drafted into WWII.  However, he assured them that he was honored to serve his country and that he would “make them proud.”  Peg [his college sweetheart] sent him off to war in 1943.  Because they knew he might never return, they did not become engaged at that time.  After completing cadet training, Nobby flew 21 missions over Germany in World War II, first as a bombadier and later as a navigator.  He witnessed many of his buddies being killed by enemy fire; at least one of these deaths was on board the plane in which he was flying.

Nobby returned home from WWII [first photo, above] and married Peg in 1946.  Peg supported Nobby while he earned a Master’s Degree on the GI Bill at UNC.  His three vocations were coach, educator, and career Air Force military officer.  Nobby & Peg raised their family on one income and gave each of their five children an opportunity to finish college.  Peg supervised ten family moves and parented alone, when Nobby was away from home on military duty [including one entire year, when Nobby was in Japan].

When Nobby was 78, he valiantly fought for his life, in a hospital ICU unit, after severe complications from surgery.  He endured one solid year of excruciating rehabilitation.  Peg was with him through all of this, as Nobby had been with her during her health challenges.

Nobby & Peg celebrated their 50th anniversary in 1996 [second photo].  They were married for 59 years, until Peg’s death in 2005.

Dad and Mom, this round is dedicated to you!  I plan to fight valiantly and I hope to “make you proud.”

 Coram Deo,

Margo

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Filed under Breast Cancer, Tribute to My Father, Tribute to My Mother

Out Of Surgery

The Surgery went very well.  Her lymph nodes are clean, which means it has NOT SPREAD!  She went into OR at 9:30am and surgery was completed at 11:40am.  She is now in recovery room.  Dad and Aunt Amy will be able to see her very soon.  I will be blogging all week, so check back often.

Garrett

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