Monday, May 27, 2013

Cancer Time Bomb

I will always be the first one to stand up and say I cannot stand Angelina Jolie. She's a home-wrecking trash bag. Seriously. I don't like her, never have. She does these "stunts" to stay relevant and it's annoying. So when I saw her come out and say she had a double mastectomy I was like, "Why? Just adopt another child to stay in the news, whore." And it's more than just my dislike that irritates me about this story. It's mostly because now you have thousands of women who will try to be tested for the gene that causes cancer only to be denied coverage to do so or even coverage of stuff afterwards. It's really frustrating. Sure, you might be federally protected so your insurance can't rip you off, but if anyone knows how to kick you when you're almost dead- it's insurance companies. Let's be real. So while I hate Angeline Jolie for being a douche who should eat a fucking sandwich, I am (begrudgingly) grateful she at least brought this topic up for other women. Because I for one, who has breast cancer as rampant as chicken pox in my family, didn't realize the strange "why would you do this if you didn't actually have cancer??" response a person like Joelle would get.

But the irony here is a few months ago I received a book in the mail by Joelle Burnette and it's called Cancer Time Bomb: How the BRCA Gene Stole My Tits and Eggs, and quite frankly- who wouldn't pick up a book with that as it's title? I mean, I'm of the sentiment that if I have cancer- take my tits. Seriously. Just take the fuckers. I'd like to wear button up shirts, and tank tops where I don't look like floozy, and it would be nice to not have boobs big enough to look like I'm still nursing a child. They are heavy, I hate bra shopping and if we're being honest- I get no sexual pleasure from them. They are basically in my way. And I was always indifferent with my ovaries and such. I already have my babies, I hate getting my period, and I hate that birth control makes me chunky. So overall, I'm for getting rid of these.

Until I read this book and now I am all of a sudden, fiercely protective of both my tits and my ovaries.

Cancer Time Bomb

After finding out she tested positive for the BRCA genetic mutation, Cancer Time Bomb is Joelle Burnette’s non-fiction narrative about her prophylactic journey to becoming a “previvor” and free from breast and ovarian cancers.
Balancing a serious subject with sarcasm and humor, this powerful story chronicles Joelle’s 3-year odyssey as she justifies slicing away healthy parts of her body that have high odds of producing cancer. While pressured by surgeons and family to take drastic measures that would remove cancer’s potential threat, she offers insight into what it feels like to face these significant decisions while not having cancer, and knowing there’s Cancer Time Bombthat minuscule chance the disease may never strike. Offering raw honesty, she reveals the darker side of choosing TRAM Flap reconstruction after a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy. She details the challenging, long recovery as she comes to terms with her choices and their impact on her as a daughter, woman, mother and wife.
Breast cancer had already impacted or taken the lives of several family members. Moreover, it was supposed to kill Joelle’s sister in 1994, according to the doctors. Regardless, 32-year-old Michelle suffered through powerful chemotherapy treatments and a painful bone marrow transplant to beat the odds and become a survivor. Thereafter, doctors had told the family, Michelle likely would die if she ever got cancer again. When she was diagnosed and survived a second breast cancer more than a decade later, Michelle’s cancer triggered a series of events leading to Joelle’s own battle to remain cancer-free.
Michelle fought cancer again while the health of these sisters’ father deteriorated after years of diabetes. All the while, caring for everyone was Joelle’s mother, Arlene, who played the strongest supportive role. Arlene remained by her daughter’s side while Joelle carried out the proactive steps to avoid cancer and stay alive for her two young children. And nobody dies in the end!
Absolutely anyone who knows me knows I cannot even get my finger pricked at the doctor's without tears coming. I'm absolutely convinced that when I was pregnant with both kids with grossly low iron levels which required a finger prick at EVERY visit, those nurses would fight over who had to deal with a grown ass woman hyperventilating, crying, and wiggling in the seat over a finger prick. To this day, I am 31 and I have not had a Tetanus shot since I was 12 because of my fear of pain and needles. 
So you can imagine how much convulsing I did while reading about Joelle's surgery. And her sister Michelle's horrendous ordeal with breast cancer treatments. I even braved it and went onto her blog Joey's Journal to see photos because I was having a really hard time visualizing her description of her new scars. (And maybe I wanted to see your boobs, Joelle. I'll be honest. I think your boobs look lovely. And I'm glad you didn't get your nipples done so you look like you're cold all of the time. Especially with hot flashes, that would be weird. I feel like you should have a shirt that says, "Say no to nipples" just to see what people say.) 
But here's what I can tell you- this book is hilarious, sad, terrifying, and completely informative. I learned more about breast cancer, treatments, and basically what it's like from this one book than I have from anything else. I love how she talks about the good nurses and doctors, and those who are complete fucking jackwads who shouldn't be in the medical field if your bedside manner is that bad. (Seriously, if that male nurse had hit my boob like that? I know my mother would have ripped his balls off. She totally would have.) 
I have always wondered if I would test positive for BRCA with breast cancer so prevalent in my family, but like Joelle- do I really want to know? Or do I want to wait it out and just fight the good fight if it happens to me? I don't know. I guess at this point I just wait. I really liked this book because after a few emails and finishing this book, Joelle and I? We'd be besties in real life. I feel like we'd just get each other. I mean, between her breakdown in the Macy's changing room over a bra (I have similar experiences every time I shop for pants and bras), her indecisiveness and personal worry over why she'd elect to have such a drastic surgery when she didn't have cancer. Yet. I know that if this were my story, it would be similarly written. Every concern and worry she had is one that you know would go through your head as well. And her decision to chose a TRAM Flap surgery instead of implants is serious, difficult, and courageous. 
Admittedly, when I've seen documentaries where women are like, "I have no boobs" and burst into tears, I have yelled at the TV, "Bitch- shut your mouth. At least you don't have CANCER. I'd rather be boob-less than die of cancer.". I really expected to leave this book feeling the same way, but I didn't. Because it's the little things like the loss of feeling feminine is what's important. It's not the size of your breast- it's the natural curve, the texture, all of these things about the boob that make it a great flappy thing on your chest that you lose. Sure, you have mounds of stomach fat fashioned into "cups" but they aren't like real boobs. I get that. I get why that would be weird and difficult to process. 
So while I could ramble on for quite awhile about this book, I won't because you'll just leave anyways. But if you are a woman who is curious about the BRCA Gene or even breast/ovarian cancer- read this book. If you are someone facing this yourself and considering which route to go- Joelle gives you some really great, very relevant, and totally honest information about her decision, why she chose it, and the aftermath. (And side note- I *totally* get you, Joelle when you want to know what the hell to expect. Sure- you know it will be painful but someone needs to explain what you can/can't do, what it's going to feel like. Just tell me what to expect- who wants to be surprised by the itch you can't satisfy?? Nobody. Nobody likes that surprise. Just like when I had Olivia and they told me I might experience "discharge" that is quarter sized. Well when I get something the size of a softball while at home walking with a screaming infant- I am not OK with that. Dang. That's half a placenta you failed to tell me about, DOCTOR. *end rant*)
So I invited you to READ HER BOOK, like her Facebook page, visit her website, and then buy extra copies of her book and surprise your friends with a great read. 

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