My soapy hand grazed over the underside of my left breast and there it was. The dreaded lump. And it was big -- just a wee bit smaller than a golf ball. How the hell did I not notice that before? I poked and prodded at it as if that would make it go away. I swallowed my panic. It can't be cancer, I told myself. It's just a cyst. It's fine. I just had a clear mammogram four months earlier for God's sake.
Despite the lovely pink ribbon, toxic ingredients are polluting us. Maybe it's just the cynic in me, but I think it should be common sense that we can't shop our way to a cure -- especially by listening to companies who claim to be supporting us and fighting breast cancer, while selling products that can contribute to causing the very disease.
Because my cancer was hormone-sensitive, I need to take a drug called Tamoxifen that is proven to reduce the risk of the cancer returning and possibly spreading to another part of my body. The newest recommendation is to stay on this drug for 10 years. Great news, right? A drug that could actually help keep me alive. I am lucky to have that option. Unfortunately, hormonal therapy for cancer comes with a whack of side effects. The biggest one for me is that I've been told not to get pregnant while taking it, due to its potential to cause birth defects.
Like Angelina, I know the pain of losing one's mother to cancer. My mother also died in her 50s -- in her case it was breast cancer. It was the lack of relevant information about my own risk as young woman whose mother has just passed that lead me to found Rethink Breast Cancer, whose mission is to empower young people who are concerned about or affected by breast cancer. I applaud Angelina Jolie Pitt both for sharing her personal experiences, and for highlighting the importance of taking control of your own health.
Young women with breast cancer present our healthcare professionals with difficult cases. They are often diagnosed with aggressive forms of breast cancer that require tough therapies. And the powerful treatments needed to stop the cancer can cause many complex side effects for young women, including early menopause.
"Mammograms save lives," read the headline from the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. My heart sank. Not only is this headline unlikely to be true, it's possibly dangerous. Recent research is adding up to what I would call a wholesale re-questioning of the need for mammography based on the fact that the overall benefits seem to be vanishingly small and the harms -- including unnecessary cancer scares, biopsies and surgeries -- considerable.
Caregivers do their best to guide parents as they struggle to talk with their children about cancer, but misunderstanding, denial, and apprehension often distort the communication process. Frustration and fear can build up as parents respond to their child's curiosity with hesitation. Parents must provide appropriate information about cancer to gain the confidence they need to do the best they can for their child.