I’m not always a good friend.
A few months ago, I had a meltdown and I shut down in many parts of my life. Pulled into my own little shell, I couldn’t see what was happening to people around me. When my clouds lifted and things started to get better, I realized that –of course– life had gone on without me, all around me.
Back in the NewDotMom days, I made friends with WhyMommy. We shared a few comments, a few toy recommendations, and she was there for me during my miscarriage. While I was off having a personal crisis, she got scary news.
WhyMommy had inflammatory breast cancer. She’s continued to blog, and these days amidst stories of her two sons and thoughts on science and astronomy she’s also sharing her fight with cancer: the surgeries, the chemo, the fears, the friendships.
I’m so incredibly ashamed of myself for being so self-centered that I didn’t see, didn’t step up to support her sooner. When I came back to my blogroll, I just didn’t know what to say. I wasn’t ready to come forward with the truth about what had happened to me, and I didn’t know how to delurk without some sort of explanation, and… my, oh my, doesn’t that sound selfish? This post is really not about me.
On NBC’s Nightly News, Robert Bazell reported tonight about a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine about the drugs that are routinely used in breast cancer treatments. Some of the drugs, like Taxol, have major side effects – and were found to be helpful to only about half of the study’s 1500 patients. Of course, this doesn’t mean that a woman should immediately turn down this medication; it does mean that researchers are moving forward in pinpointing the type of treatment courses that will be most effective for each patient.
Unfortunately, however, IBC – the type of cancer that WhyMommy has – isn’t getting nearly as much attention as some of the other types. In fact, the usual advice about lumps and self-checks and mammograms and risk factors doesn’t seem to apply to IBC. As she explains,
It strikes young women as often as older women, breastfeeding mothers as often as grandmothers, and women with and without a history of breast cancer in their family. It does not always form a lump in the breast. Instead, it forms in sheets and nests in the lymphatic system of the skin, appearing only after it clogs the lymph system with cancer, causing the skin to swell and turn red as if in anger.
Sometimes, it appears first as a mark like a bug bite, or a bruise that just won’t heal. Sometimes, the texture of the skin changes first, becoming tough, hard, or with little dimples like an orange peel. Sometimes, it feels thick to the touch, or hot, or just … different.
If you haven’t already, check in on WhyMommy. Include her in your prayers and your list of daily reads. Join Team WhyMommy. Pass on this vital information to other women. All month long, when you see pink ribbons, remember that breast cancer comes in many forms – and they all need research, they all need a cure.