Oct 31 2013
“I’m a word person, but for this I have no words.” That’s how I started an e-mail to a good friend the day I found out she was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer. It took me a full hour to process the news, and I spent the next several in tears. That was four weeks ago. Three weeks ago she told me what caused the cancer: her second pregnancy.
Today I’ve found my words again. Chalk it up to going through the steps of grieving–grieving over her diagnosis–but ever since she told me that because she created life, she’s now fighting for her own, I have been angry. Not angry at my friend, who wishes to remain nameless–“The message is the most important aspect,” she said–but angry that after having two kids myself and knowing a very fair share of other moms and having an OB/GYN in my family, I had never heard of pregnancy-induced breast cancer.
My friend never heard about it either, so when she noticed a lump in her left breast, she figured it was a clogged milk duct. She had no genetic history of breast cancer and felt fine. In September, when her second child was 10 months old, she sought treatment for a cough and pain in her chest, back, and shoulders. The doctor diagnosed pneumonia. At a recheck a week later, he found the antibiotics had done nothing. He sent her for further testing, and on September 27th, she was diagnosed with stage four (metastatic) breast cancer.
About 1 in 3,000 pregnant women will get it, according to the American Cancer Society, and it’s the most common type of cancer found during pregnancy or within the year after delivery. Read the rest of this entry →
Oct 22 2013
This past week, my 85–year-old grandmother passed away rather suddenly. She was the only grandparent I ever met, and for a couple of years when I lived with her, she was more like a parent figure. My “Grams,” as we called her, was tough as nails. She raised four kids after her husband died at 45 years old, and she was left with nothing. She didn’t even have a driver’s license.
Grams worked 40 hours a week at a six pack store up until about two months before she passed. She always said she wanted to die by “getting hit in the a** by a mac truck.” Well, cancer was her mac truck and it happened rather quickly. Grams was checked into the hospital on a Wednesday, diagnosed on Friday with stage IV cancer, and died Saturday afternoon after the whole family got to say goodbye. Read the rest of this entry →
Aug 23 2013
When we asked our readers to send in their Rosh Hashanah Resolutions, we certainly weren’t expecting anything like the following, sent to us from Rebecca Faulkner Branum of Edmond, Oklahoma.
A New Year sometimes sneaks into a life, changing a family’s calendar forever. Five years ago I was unable to eat apples or honey because I was neutropenic from cancer chemotherapy. The bacteria from uncooked food could have sickened or even killed me, so the Rosh Hashanah that snuck into my life that fall might have been hard to recognize, but it was there all the same.
Cancer appeared as a terrible phone call in September, one week after my only child’s 1st birthday, a day that became Day #1 of a new life. The year that followed was one of loss. Of course the usual cancer losses–my breasts, my hair, and a lot of lost lunches–but I also lost my job as a health care provider (because I couldn’t work with ill patients). Then I lost my savings, my car, my house, and finally my husband, who walked away from the stress. Read the rest of this entry →
Jul 19 2013
Aly Viny is an actress and writer in New York City. She has appeared on stages throughout New York City and across the country. She maintains a site of Jew girl raps at www.jap-rap.com where she raps poetic about everything from her frustrations with her husband leaving empty Splenda packets around the house, to Costco trips, to Passover. She loves the crap out of her husband and in this particular rap, she gets more personal as she shares a bit of his incredible journey from being healed to becoming a healer. She sure is lucky she could be along for the ride.
It’s summer and you think I’m gonna rap ’bout somethin’ lotional
Today’s a little different, y’all, forgive me if I’m ‘motional
Let’s take a little breather, slow it down and maybe park it
Put away your kale from your co-op hipster market
Let’s gather like it’s Pesach, all my sisters and my brothers
While I tell you why this night is so much DIFFERENT FROM THE OTHERS
So let’s all listen up, just relax or take a pill
And I’ll tell y’all the story cuz this shit ’bout to get RIL Read the rest of this entry →
May 21 2013
Last week, Angelina Jolie disclosed that she had a preventive double mastectomy after learning that she carries a gene that sharply increases her risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. I absolutely applaud her decision to share her experience, as I am a strong believer in the power of telling our stories, both for others and for ourselves.
And then I tried to stop thinking about it, or anything else related to the C word or the inevitable D word. But I couldn’t. In the back of my mind, I wondered if I am at an increased risk for breast or ovarian cancer as I am both of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, and my paternal aunt died of breast cancer when she was just 45 years old. I finally decided I needed to learn more. I called my aunt, Dr. Elizabeth Naumburg. She’s a Professor of Family Medicine and an Associate Dean for Advising at the University of Rochester Medical School, and she sees patients just like me on a regular basis–women who might have questions about their own risk for breast cancer, and what they should do about it. Read the rest of this entry →
Sep 24 2012
In 2006, my 35-year-old stepbrother was diagnosed with advanced metastatic prostate cancer. Jeremy faced his disease with tremendous grace and humor.
He died less than two years later.
His death was devastating for me. Although we had different biological parents, we became brother and sister when we were both just 2 years old. Only three months separated us, and some of my fondest childhood memories involve our make believe games and mischief together. Read the rest of this entry →
May 9 2012
In honor of Mother’s Day, one of our writers reflects on the lasting memories of her mom.
My mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in November, 1999. For a while, chemotherapy was her powerful ally, and she won battle after battle against the invader cells. By May, 2002, she was proclaimed “cancer free,” and went traipsing off to Provence with my dad and his cousins for a 10-day adventure, where they enjoyed the flowering countryside, good food, and fine wine.
She returned happy and very, very tired. When the fatigue didn’t lift after a few weeks, she was back at her oncologist’s office, bravely facing the terrible news: The cancer was back. With a vengeance. So, she and her oncologist tried to hit back twice as hard, until she developed a life-threatening toxicity to the only drug that was kicking cancer’s ass. But, instead of giving up, she entered a hard-core clinical trial–one that left her skin blistered and peeling, her nights suffocated by excruciating dreams, and her unusually keen memory foggy and addled. Read the rest of this entry →