Thursday, September 18, 2014

Set the Peckers Free and Other Nonsense

Warning:  Graphic image below

Ah, autumn, it brings cool breezes, multi-colored leaves, and . . . breast cancer awareness messages.

So, it was no surprise when this appeared on my Facebook news feed recently. I decided I could not let it go without trying to educate at least the poster of this picture about why this promotion is upsetting to me.

The conversation went something like this:

Me: Most everyone is aware of breast cancer. October 13th is also Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day. Metastatic Breast Cancer is incurable - deadly. This advertisement sexualizes a deadly disease and neglects the seriousness of it. Keep your bra on. Donate instead.

Female #1: If this day causes someone to donate a $1.00 then it is ok by me.

Female #2: Well, that day should be interesting.

Me: This advertisement does not make anyone aware that 30% of early breast cancer patients will become stage IV – the deadly stage. I lost my breasts 9 years ago, so I can tell you there is nothing fun or freeing about breast cancer. I am now stage IV. Every time I see this image it angers me because it sends the wrong message.

Poster: Oh, I am sorry. I did not mean to offend you in any way.

In no way did I consider your posting of this message to be mean spirited. I only wanted to make people aware that there is another side to this.

I'm so glad you did, Lisa, You hit a mark that is so true, and I was missing it entirely. Thank you again, Lisa.  

Then this response appeared:

Male: OK...What if they would do one for Men's prostate cancer. Do we get to walk around with our pecker hanging out? Before anyone gets upset, if you don't joke about something or have fun it will kill you. I am epileptic and I am just glad when I have a seizure I don't wet my pants...lmbo Humor is the best medicine for anything.

Clearly, this person is in the dark about stage IV breast cancer with his words “if you don’t joke about something or have fun it will kill you”.  My lack of humor is not what is going to kill me.

After, rereading his comment I wondered,: am I missing the humor of this promotion?  Since I no longer have breasts -- just cold, round, fake, immovable illusions – for me the activity of releasing my breasts from whatever binds them wouldn’t feel or look quite the way I think the promoters were hoping. For those women living with an intact cancerous breast -- for stage IV patients at initial diagnosis the breast is not always removed -- I am confident having their breasts jiggling around for people to see would be the least appealing way for them to actively participate in an awareness campaign. Humor and cancer -- hummmm . . . nope, I still don’t see it.

I decided not to respond to the comment-er. His lack of sympathy and ability to comprehend what I wrote was apparent. Any attempt on my part to explain my opinion most likely would have been useless. The writer clearly does not have a body part that has set the course for his ultimate demise.

So I helped one person understand, but the other is still out there thinking: No Bra Day is just plain fun.

If I had responded it might have gone like this.

I would much rather worry about peeing in my pants than worrying if my next scan will indicate I am close to death. Would you feel the same way about humor being your best medicine if you had, using your word, “pecker” cancer which is called penile cancer by the way, and although rare, does happen? I am betting you would have your penis amputated in hopes that your life would not end sooner than you ever imagined. Your relationship with your penis would be changed forever. I don’t believe you would want your penis dangling free in your most comfortable pair of  shorts while you enjoyed how freeing it felt.

Would pictures like the one below help him understand the seriousness of cancer? I don’t think any man or woman finds penile cancer sexy or fun and certainly not beautiful. That should be the same for breast cancer.

When he asked, "Do we get to walk around with our pecker hanging out?" I wondered if there was a sexualized campaign using slang words and images of healthy-looking people for cancerous male sexual body parts. So I did a little internet investigating. What I found surprised me.

My penile and prostate cancer awareness campaign searches did not generate the same type of slang word usage as is found with breast cancer. Then again dick and cock are words used for undesirable guys, so the effect would not be the same. There were words about awareness and the typical ribbons with their designated colors -- nothing sexual at all.

However, testicular cancer did.

The first website I discovered was "feelmyballs" - The Testicular Cancer Awareness Project.

Another one at  for the Testicular Cancer Foundation had the slogan “Man Up - Check’em”. On that webpage is a round symbol with “Be Ballsy” across the middle. Is that cute and funny?  I bet someone living with testicular cancer doesn’t think so. Those words do nothing but trivialize the disease. It has the same effect as the slang vocabulary used in awareness advertising for breast cancer.

Facebook’s testicular cancer page has this . . .

And then there was this at for Testicular Cancer Awareness.

Remember boys, get your bracelets and proudly wear these words “Don’t be a punk, check your junk”.

And finally, I almost FORGOT what I was looking for when I found this on Youtube about testicular cancer.

Cancer advertisements should educate and inform. It should not cause a person to think about sex.

Men are not solely to blame for these advertisements. Women are responsible too. Our society glamorizes woman who prance around willingly allowing their body parts to gain them attention, and for some it can be quite lucrative. Jennifer Lopez, Nicki Minaj, and BeyoncĂ© are at the top in popularity because of their scantily dressed figures – oh yeah, they sing too. When gracing the Red-Carpet, America’s female actresses are spotlighted if they appear in gowns that are clearly meant to promote them as sexual objects. Side-breasts, cleavage, almost the entire breast except the nipple are revealed from every angle. Stars do not have to be half-naked to be appreciated, but as long as people continue to profit from promoting sexual body parts and people find this acceptable, this practice of using sex for disfiguring and life-threatening diseases will never end.

In the meantime, I and many others will continue to express our opinions about the inappropriateness of “Save the Tatas”, “No Bra Day” and "Love my Nuts". Perhaps someday enough voices will be heard and people will change their attitudes about sexualizing advertising in the guise of cancer awareness.

Setting body parts free helps no one.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Update/Treatment #23 and #24

Treatment #24

On August 18th (just over 3 weeks ago), I had my #23 treatment. Since I have been doing well and had such a fantastic recent scan, my doctor decided I could skip seeing her and go directly to infusion.

That is exactly what I did.

Soon after I was seated in the treatment center, a nurse accessed my port drawing from it enough blood to fill a few vials. Those were sent to the lab for analysis. Thirty minutes later, I had the results. My red blood cell and white blood cell counts were normal. My platelets were a little low, but acceptable. TDM-1 can be tough on platelets (those are necessary for the blood to clot). If my platelets were to become very low I would notice that I bruise easily, and my gums would bleed as I brushed my teeth. Let’s hope that never happens.

Treatment #25

On Monday, September 8th, I completed treatment #25. It was a very long affair beginning with a hematology appointment. After my port was accessed, blood drawn and sent for analysis, I walked to the department next door where I waited to see the doctor.

When the knock on the door of the exam room finally came, I wasn’t surprised that it wasn’t my doctor who entered. In the past, I always felt annoyed that a PA would enter when I was expecting my doctor. After all, my appointment was scheduled with the doctor, so shouldn’t I be seeing her? Then I would think "it must be good that I don’t need to see the doctor".  On the other hand, how do I build a relationship with my doctor if she sends someone else to see me? Today though, it didn’t bother me. This PA seems to genuinely care about me -- more so than my doctor seems too. I will gladly see her anytime.

I reported to the PA a new symptom that I have been having over the past three weeks. It began with a pain behind my left ear. It was short-lived and would come and go over a few days. Then the momentary pain would present above my ear.  A few days later, I began to feel a prickly sensation.  It would begin at the back of my head and end at my left temple. This sensation could be felt at different times throughout the day. I really noticed it when I went to bed and upon rising in the morning. Now, this sensation can be felt on the right side of my head as well though not as often and not as noticeable. Weirdly, at times, I feel as if I am wearing a hat when no hat is there.

Of course a cancer patient immediately thinks “oh no, tell me the cancer is NOT in my brain”.  I tried to suppress that thought by thinking about other causes. Maybe my scalp tingling is a result of my back or neck pain. That pain could be sending messages to my scalp in what is called referred pain. My back has been a source of mild on and off pain for years. Or could it be a strange neuropathy involving my head from the TDM-1 (Kadcyla)? I do have neuropathy in my fingers and toes from this drug leaving those nerves hyper-sensitive. As I type right now, little prickly electric-type sensations are present in each finger. Tingling of the head is not listed as a side-effect, though. In the past, I have had this tingling sensation on my scalp when my GI system was wacky. TDM-1 is gentler than Taxotere on the GI tract, but it still causes problems. Perhaps it is my sinuses. I do feel a pressure sensation between my left eye and nose. Have any of you, dear readers, had this type of sensation before?

After I described this new symptom to my P.A., she had no answer as to its possible cause. She told me that brain metastases do happen more often with my breast cancer type. Typically HER 2 positive disease of the brain presents as one mass rather than several. Most often, she continued, you would notice that your speech and balance are affected. Since I was not having those issues, she felt like we should give this more time and see if it resolves. In the meantime, she would let Dr. R. know. If I noticed a worsening then I should call so a brain scan could be ordered.

Brain scan . . . yikes! I had one at the beginning of this tumultuous life that I now lead. It was clean.

Finally to the infusion center I went where I endured more waiting while my drug was warmed and mixed in the pharmacy. At the end of all this waiting, I saw my chemo-nurse walking toward me with the clear bag of fluid that I am so grateful to receive. Thanks Roche/Genentech Pharmaceuticals!