PV MIrror, Oct 23-29, 2010, issue # 106, pg 16-17

How many of you know someone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer? All of you, right? I cannot imagine not knowing anyone who’s been diagnosed. The more poignant question is how close were/are they to you; a friend of a friend, someone else’s Aunt, mother, sister, mom or did it strike one your best friends or a family member? Personally, I have a sister-in-law who was diagnosed several years ago, fortunately in an early stage, and is now in remission. I also have a cousin who is my age, currently in the battle for her life.

It seems inescapable. It’s everywhere. That is because it is the most common form of cancer among women (besides skin cancer). Statistically, “1 in 8 women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime…In 2010, an estimated 207,090 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 54,010 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer.”(http://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/understand_bc/statistics.jsp)NOTE: (“Invasive” cancer has spread outside the milk duct or milk-making glands and has grown into normal tissue inside the breast. It is called “metastatic” cancerif it spreads to other parts of the body through the bloodstream (to the brain, bones, liver, or lungs) and lymphatic system the (lymph nodes in the armpit or beyond).(http://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/diagnosis/invasive.jsp)

Contrary to popular belief that most cases of breast cancer are hereditary, the opposite is in fact true. “About 70-80% of breast cancer occurs in women who have no family history of breast cancer”. (http://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/understand_bc/statistics.jsp). Neither my sister-in-law nor my cousin has a family history of breast cancer.

My cousin’s story

My cousin’s story is tragic on so many levels. Following a very bitter divorce, she was left without health insurance. When she was finally diagnosed, it was very advanced, and she and her family, particularly her mother, had to scramble to find not only the best treatments, but also a way to pay for them. As we all know, healthcare costs are astronomical in the States. Her mother re-mortgaged her home and borrowed money from everyone she could think of. Her siblings gave what they could and finally my cousin was accepted on a special medication trial.

In addition to the traditional chemotherapy and radiation, they investigated alternative options from healthy eating and nutritional supplements to very cutting edge treatments including building cancer antibodies. These treatments worked and she entered remission. The tumors shrank and her immune system recovered. Despite the great news, her mother and family were horribly in debt and exhausted.

Family support

Everyone sacrificed so much. At age 72, her mother forfeited any hope of retirement, and continues to work 10 and 12 hour days. Her siblings rallied around her. They took her to doctor’s appointments, grocery shopped, made the meals, stayed with her during hospitalizations, and helped with her teenage children who needed to be driven to school and activities. When my cousin was able, she did as much as was allowed or recommended by the doctors.  One sibling even moved in with her and took care of her when she was too weak and in too much pain to do anything on her own.

Recently, she was given the devastating news that her cancer had metastasized to her spine and liver. She is in tremendous pain, which is only manageable on narcotic analgesic pain killers. She has only been given a 10% chance of living. In response to this, her ex-husband who had been paying the mortgage as part of the divorce agreement, decided to stop paying it, telling her and the kids that she is going to die anyway and the children were going to eventually live with him, so why bother paying anymore. She is now faced with a foreclosure as she battles for her life.

I did not share this tragic and personal story for pity or sympathy. Instead, to emphasize how the entire family system is involved and plays roles. Not only was my cousin’s immediate family; her children and ex-husband involved and affected, so were her siblings and mother. The family system is a powerful thing and the reaction of each member can be positive or negative. They can dramatically facilitate or hinder the healing process.

Do everything possible

When someone receives a potentially life threatening diagnosis, they want to know every possible treatment; conventional and alternative, because they want to live. The basic instinct to survive is very powerful and motivating. Suddenly, we are ready to be healthy, make lifestyle changes, eat differently, exercise, and give-up bad habits. We frantically search for answers.

Fortunately, there are more alternatives and options than ever. There are two fabulous books I recommend. The first one (winner of the 2006 Best Health Book of the Year)is written byan acquaintance of mine, Dr. Christine Horner, called “Waking the Warrior Goddess”. Christine left a highly lucrative plastic surgery practice in order to dedicate herself to breast cancer prevention and wellness. She lost her own mother to breast cancer and successfully got a federal law passed, which requires insurance companies to pay for breast augmentations after masectomies. In the book, she describes many ways of preventing breast cancer or curing it once you’ve been diagnosed. Everything is based on highly regarded research. It is a must read. http://www.drchristinehorner.com/books

The second book written by Suzanne Somers (Three’s Company TV actress), also offers a wealth of information. Suzanne is a cancer survivor who did not choose traditional western medicine treatment. She dedicated many years to researching and interviewing doctors regarding cancer treatments. She has authored many books, and recently dedicated an entire book to preventing and beating cancer, called “Knockout”. She includes a lot of great information including stem cell therapy and cancer anti-body (dendritic cell) therapy. Both of these are available in Mexico and many countries around the world. www.suzannesomers.com/Knockout/

I also highly recommend that women consider thermograms. Go to: http://drsherri.wordpress.com/2007/08/28/thermogram-vs-mammogram

Hopefully, we won’t all wait for a diagnosis before we make positive healthy changes in our lives!

Written by: Giselle Belanger, RN, LCSW