Monday, October 12, 2009


I have not been keeping up with this blog as well as I had initially planned. But today I need to vent a little bit, so I think I will.

There is a lot of talk going on about 'Cancer Awareness Month.' In reality, this month is Breast Cancer Awareness. I bet you guys didn't know that the month of November is Lung Cancer Prevention month. In fact, nearly each month of the year focuses on one or more forms of cancer and the awareness and prevention of each type. Unfortunately it is not as commercialized as the campaign against breast cancer.

As someone who has watched a very close family member suffer from and ultimately lose the battle with one of the least treatable forms of cancer, I know how scary the word is. And I know that not only the person with cancer suffers, all of their loved ones do as well. I mean, afterall...the most commonly used method of treatment [or sometimes prolongment of life] involves either radiation, or pumping poison through ones system. They have to make you sick, on the chance that they can make you better.

My grandmother was diagnosed with lung cancer sometime in the fall of '99, during my senior year of high school. She and I had a relationship more like that of a mother and daughter, we were that close. My parents chose not to tell my brother and I about her diagnosis until after the holidays, on January 1st of 2000. Only later would I find out that it was at my grandmothers request, and it would take even longer for me to understand her reasoning for wanting it that way. She knew ahead of time, that it was going to be a tough battle. I think this was the turning point in my life, when my depression actually began. I lost a lot that year, relationships, what little faith I did have, and friendships...which I know now, were merely lost acquaintances. Senior year was rough...prom, my grandmother was on my mind. Graduation...I cried my eyes out, because I know how important it was for her to be there...she couldn't make it because she was too sick from the chemo. Those of you who know me, know that very few of you have ever seen me shed a tear. I close off. In fact, outside of direct family, I only broke down once. It was at the funeral following her casket out of the church. The finality of it all got to me. It's difficult to watch someone you love lose a lot of their independance, their strength, their hair, and even worse their spirit and the light in their eyes.

I'm not going to go completely into that story, because to this day I get emotional. You don't really realize the impact that chemotherapy can make on somebodies body, health, and state of mind. Long story short, the cancer eventually spread into her esophagus, into her bones, and ultimately to her brain before she couldn't fight any longer. Luckily I got to say my goodbyes to her before dementia hit and she could no longer recognize the family. She passed away early the morning of September 9th, of 2001 ... on my parents anniversary. 'Anniversary' being one of the last words she spoke. She was so thoughful, that even on her deathbed at UM, she was trying her hardest to hold on not for her, but for someone else. But in all honesty, no matter how bittersweet...we all felt a sense of relief when we got the phone call. She was finally no longer in pain. <

Now, what brought all of this on, you may be asking? The last few months my mom has been having female issues. After an initial surgical procedure a few years ago, there was nothing wrong. But three months ago when problems flared up again, the doctors found pre-cancerous cells in her uterus. But insurance won't approve a hysterectomy [so much for prevention.] One would think that if a few years ago, there was nothing, and suddenly they find pre-cancerous cells...something bad is a brewin'. This makes me livid. For the past three months, they have had her on a hormone, hoping that it would decrease these bad cells. How it will do that, I am unsure. Either case, now she will have to set up an appointment for the same procedure a second time. Once the results come in, if there are more pre-cancerous cells or no improvement, a hysterectomy will finally be scheduled. THREE months. That's a long time. You would think that insurance would realize that if these cells have developed out of the blue, it's probably a good idea to get them the hell out of there.

I am confident that insurance will approve the hysterctomy this time, and that everything will be fine. But it still scares me that they would gamble like that with a patient who has been in menopause for 20+ years, and clearly won't be having any more children. [I won't lie, it also makes me nervous because my grandmother had Endometrial Cancer a few years prior to the lung cancer.]

Aside from this, a friend is dealing with a form of more treatable cancer in her family and going through a tough time with that. I understand. A friend who is practically a cousin to me is having health issues with her son...the doctors overlooked some tests from when he was 2 months old, and are now testing for Leukemia or blood cancer over a year later. So yes, the word cancer has come up a lot lately.

I don't know where I was going with this other than venting my anger about the insurance situation, and the stress of it all.

I suppose my point is this: Don't ever be so naive as to think that cancer could never touch the ones you love, no matter their health. Because it happens to the people who deserve it least. My grandmother quit smoking 15+ years prior to her diagnosis. She would have given the shirt off her back to someone in need, and she fought the hardest and longest that she could. I hope to one day be half the woman she was. Don't ever take life for granted.

The word cancer, whether there is a prefix attached to it or not, is a scary word. It's not something to be played around with. I really wish that insurance companies were a little more sensitive to the matter.

[A big thank you to Ruben for whipping my ass into shape for not getting all of this out, you are right. Sometimes we do need to vent. Thanks bro! Mom's has an appointment MOnday for her follow up...then we'll see where this all goes. <3]