October has been designated as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Pink ribbons are everywhere. It must have started out as a good idea. Now, it is just a money making machine. I refuse to buy into it. Especially now.
They found it late in 2012. It was a 3 millimeter growth, about the size of a clove, or about half of a standard pencil eraser. Panic ensued.
I’ll never forget the look on the face of the first technician when she dismissed me to consult with my doctor. It must have been my 8th or 9th routine screening; having taken the advice to start early. My mother had died of an unrelated cancer, but the seed was planted and I paid attention.
They recommended a detailed diagnostic x ray, which I did within the week at a local hospital. This time, they kept me, for hours. I was told the radiologist would give me immediate results. He did, and 2 hours later, still in my backless gown, he sent me to another area for an ultrasound.
Now, I began to sweat a bit. This was unusual and they looked concerned. There in a very cool, dimly lit room, they concentrated on a small area on the right breast; multiple pictures. I was in trouble.
The radiologist, a very small Asian man with a heavy accent then appeared out of nowhere and with 4 words, changed the course of my life for the next 17 months.
“You need a biopsy”.
I’m really not certain that I heard anything he said beyond that. There were many words; I have no idea about what. I got dressed, went home and my OB called about an hour later. She recommended a surgeon and set up the appointment for the consultation; about 2 weeks later. Dear Jesus.
His first words to me were “I can’t believe they want me to biopsy something this small”.
But of course, he did. I overheard his dictation to my OB doctor as I was checking out with the office manager. He thanked her for sending him “this business”. If I wasn’t so sick with worry, I would have been angry. That came later.
It was an outpatient procedure with local anesthetic; called a stereotactic biopsy. I was awake and watched as a small computer driven needle sucked the tissue out through a tube, and off for analysis. He was very cavalier through the whole thing, didn’t seem too worried, we talked about the elections. That relieved me a bit. He was sure; he “got it all”.
Almost 5 days later, I got the call; it was harmless fatty tissue. That should have been the end of it. It was not.
Follow up with surgeon was fine. Two months later, back to the mammogram detail exam, back to the ultrasound, just to be sure. They were not sure. There was a shadow. Damn.
What ensued over the next year was ridiculous. The shadow was not going away. I looked at the films and I honestly couldn’t see it. They could, and like an obedient child, I kept going back for more. Was it scar tissue from the surgery ? Was it the uranium marker chip that was implanted at the site ? Had the cells in the area been stimulated by the invasion of that needle and were going rogue ? Maybe even malignant ?
Finally, this past Spring, 2014, they released me from the process. I was okay to go back to my regular annual exams. I have not seen or talked to a doctor since. I was eaten up by the system, my insurance was over-billed, I was over-radiated . Worst of all, I lived my life those 17 or 18 months like one who was dying.
And then it happened; the worry was replaced by anger. I watched two calendar years of those pink ribbon campaigns, and I wondered how many had been sucked in, like I had.
I did the research into Susan G. Komen’s Walk for Life campaign. I needed thousands more dollars of pledge money to qualify to even begin the walk. This woman capitalized on the death of her sister to become a millionaire; and maybe, raise some awareness into women’s health issues. It seemed it was more about personal profit.
Losing a family member to cancer, which we all have, does far more to make one “aware” than those well-funded idiots in pink who garner attention by surrounding themselves with the actual victims; the ones who deserve support and empathy.
I was one of the lucky ones. I did not get the actual diagnosis. If and when I do, I will proceed differently with the medical community. With anger comes enlightenment.
I will never, ever wear the pink ribbon again.