Sunday, August 14, 2011

Family reunion 2011

I love my family. We have a family of comedians. And comediennes. Cousins from up and down the east coast converged on Rocky Gap Resort and State Park in Maryland for a weekend of catching up on graduations, jobs, health, boyfriends, kids and everything else. Outdoor activities, food, exercise, and socializing were on the agenda.

Since the theme of this blog is surviving breast cancer, I need to point out that some of my relatives are breast cancer survivors.  Two aunts and a first cousin, to be exact, so it is a relatively known disease in this family of mine. Fortunately, no one that we know of in the present generations, which includes individuals from 6 months of age to 86 years of age, have died of the disease. My 86 year old aunt had it twice, once in each breast, in 1970 and 1975, before chemotherapy was used. She had mastectomies and radiation and no recurrence. No chemotherapy, no anti-estrogen pills, just radiation and a radical mastectomy.

Was her health care options as broad as those available today? Definitely not.  But external beam radiation, directed to a specific area of the body, was available.  And it was enough to get rid of the cancer, not cause any fatal radiation overdoses, and kept her alive and well for another 35 years and still going strong.  She may well still be running around at 100 at her rate. The radiation alone and the mastectomies, for her, prevented any recurrence. While I am sure 1970 and 1975 were not happy years for her, and probably left some battle scars, life was much more full and memorable and didn't stop in 1975 for her.

So thinking about my aunt, and her 85 year old sister, and my cousin, reminds me not to fear the radiation, but just to get through them by putting my nose on the grindstone.  (Is that the right cliche?  I'm not even sure what it means.  Hopefully you do).

I know there are radiation overdoses and long terms risks, but I am pretty certain that my facility crosses its t's and dots its i's in terms of checking the equipment every morning, making sure that the dosage is accurate for each patient, and spending lots of time ensuring that patients like me are positioned in the same exact way for every treatment, with one arm up and laying my head and arm in the plaster mold made just for me.  At least that's what they tell me, and I have to believe them.

There are lots of holistic options, from oils to diet and herbs.  But it seems to me that we ought to take advantage of all modern medicine offered.  I know I want to make sure that my life is just as long and cancer free as my aunt's is.  Not only is she cancer-free for 35+ years, but she is fit and one of the sharpest tacks in the family gene pool. 

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