Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Not just Breast Cancer Awareness...but ALL Cancer Awareness - Original post 10/11/06

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Everywhere you look, you'll see pink ribbons. Even M&M's are pink and white this month. It's a noble cause. But I have to say that it's almost a tad unfair. (Oh geesh, stop throwing things at me...let me finish). We should ALL be aware of breast cancer...it's a tragic disease. But my friends...there are other cancers out there besides the pink-ribboned variety...and we need to be just as aware of those.

In January of 2005, I lost my mother to Lung Cancer. It was just as tragic to her family and friends as breast cancer could have been. Unfortunately, lung cancer has a bad stigma...in that so many believe that it's a self-inflicted disease due to smoking. To some extent, it's true. My mom smoked alot. My dad smoked (and still sneaks a puff). My brother and his wife had been long-time smokers until she became very very ill. I have no idea why I didn't become a smoker...but if second-hand smoke has a negative affect...I'm a victim of it, too. But I digress. Due to the high number of smokers among the elite crownd of lung cancer victims, many people point a finger of "see, I told you so" rather than don their ribbons (In case you wondered...pearl is the appropriate ribbon color). It's a shame really...because the disease is just as tragic...and probably more often fatal. My mom lived a year after diagnosis...and it wasn't a pretty year.

My brother was diagnosed with skin cancer "melanoma" the year before my mom got sick. This is yet another "told you so" cancer that gets little sympathy. "You shoulda used sun block" is often the battle cry instead of donning the, in this case I believe, black ribbons. Well, the last time I saw my pastey white brother have a tan was back in the late 70's when a bottle of baby-oil laced with iodine was the "sun oil" of choice. Sun block was for wimps...it's the way society was. Luckily, much like smoking, people are beginning to understand the adverse affects leading to cancer. But also like lung cancer, skin cancer just isn't treated as reverently as breast cancer. By the way, his cancer was successfully removed. But an interesting thing about this form of cancer is that it's passed on...not by generation, but via siblings (true fact). I used to be a lifeguard that prided myself on my baby oil tans. I'm going to see the dermatologist in two weeks for my 6-month examine. I'm a high risk patient...and I'm not taking it lightly.

Last year at this time, I was going through a cancer scare myself. Prostate cancer (light blue ribbon for those of you keeping score). During a routine digital exam (yep...bend over and smile), the doc felt a rather large lump. A week later, the urologist felt the same thing...and he ordered a biopsy. A graphic description alert here...but a prostate biopsy can be best described as having a series of fishhooks attacked to a broomstick and shoved up your ass until there's a snag...and then pull hard. Yep...I was drugged some, but had to remain awake...and the pain was very real. I'm sure my finger prints are still imbedded onto the edge of that exam table. Unfortunately, the first biopsy only resulted in more questions and "questionable" tissue. As a result, a second one was ordered 3 months later for twice the number of samples. For those of you that don't know...the prostate is in the area where urine passes nearby...as does ejaculate. After having my prostate turned to swiss cheese, you can imagine the various ways blood showed itself over the next few weeks. And no, I'm not telling you this to gross you out or shock you...well..not too much...but to let you understand that even the threat of cancer causes pain. Not only for the victim, but for the family. I'm happy to say that I was found to be cancer free. I'm also here to say that the urologist said the "questionable tissue" found indicates I can probably expect a positive occurrence of cancer by the time I'm 50. That's only 6 years away.

My point is, cancer touches nearly everyone...and whether it's a relatively easily cured skin cancer, or a fatal nastiness like lung cancer...or just the suggestion that cancer MIGHT be within you...no one wants to hear the "C" word. So we have to be aware. Support smoking cessation instead of pointing the finger and saying "I told you so." Apply SPF 40 on your skin and be proud of those pastey white, yet healthy thighs. And eat right...exercise...and all those things we're supposed to do. (By the way...no one knows what causes prostate cancer...no one. And 80% of all men will get it...and nearly 100% will get it if they live to age 80. However, most die of something else before they do from PC).

Be aware of breast cancer...but be aware of all cancers. And feel free to wear a ribbon. Any color will do...

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