Thursday, July 31, 2008

My Time

With the terrible news that Lisa was given this week, I have been thinking, a lot more then I usually let myself, about death.
My father died of melanoma, a young man who had just turned 53. They never found the origin of his disease. My Grandmother was just told she has a melanoma that she needs to have removed this week. We are fair skinned people, we are sun worshipers, we used sunscreen as kids but not vigilantly.

Is this the legacy my family has given me along with blue eyes and a quick temper?
I get my checkups, I tell my doctors about my family history like I talk about my grocery list, but I never feel safe.

My own cancer scare was enough to open my eyes to this terrible disease. You are never too young to get it. You can never be too young, exercise enough, eat healthy enough for cancer to pass you by.
It will come for you, when is the only question.

I was lucky, I escaped with a benign tumor but that is only after all my tests, biopsy and doctors all told me it was malignant.
I walked around for the weeks before my surgery with this tumor inside of me, and it was so strange. This lump that could kill me, leave my children motherless, my husband a widow and my mother having to deal with the worst thing in life-losing a child was just there as we waited. All the while I did my grocery shopping, cleaning and I played with my kids, but I could not stop thinking about the poison that I thought was inside my body.
Perhaps it was the alternative treatments I did before my surgery that made the poison harmless, perhaps it was luck or maybe it just wasn't my time- yet.

If cancer runs in your family do you get checked out more often? Do you ever feel safe?
I try to live my life, just be in the moment and I try to push back the voices in my mind that say "soon it will be your turn".


  1. Luckily, there is no history of cancer in MY side of the family. Trish's side does have a history of breast cancer, so it's something the girls will have to be on the lookout for.

    But one scary form of cancer to me is colorectal cancer. This is what Katie Couric's husband died of. It's also what got Tony Snow recently.

    I first became aware of it not from Katie Couric, who has been very vocal, but when I was doing investment research on a local company called Exact Sciences (EXAS), which developed a screening test that looks for genetic markers of cancer in stool. In evaluating the investment, I had to learn quite a bit about colorectal cancer...

    What's both scary and interesting is that it's basically 100% preventable with proper screening. If it's detected early, it's really not that big a deal, nor is it life-threatening. The key is in screening. What's scary is that, without screening, the cancer can advance to a point where it really IS life-threatening before any symptoms reveal their ugly heads.

    Bottom line: At age 50, and every 10 years thereafter, don't play around with that colonoscopy. DO IT. And if there's any history of colorectal cancer in the family, that process needs to start long before age 50. And then there's a host of interim screening procedures that should be done annually (i.e, FOBT or the EXAS test, among others) in between colonoscopies.

    I have had one close friend die of cancer, though... about 14 years ago. He was feeling a pain in his back. He was self-unemployed (as he called it), so he had no health insurance, but he was a vietnam war vet, so he could go to the VA. I took him to the VA to have a look at the back pain. Turns out, it was lung cancer that had advanced into his bones.

    He wasn't what I would call an educated person... but he was a good guy... one of my AA sponsors. I can still remember him sitting up in bed when I went to visit him.... all chipper and laughing about how much he enjoyed the testicular exam his hot little nurse had given him.... then he blurts out what he thought was encouraging news... "I'll be going home soon... the doctor says it's inoperable."

    Like... he didn't even know what inoperable meant. On my way out, I stopped at the nurse's station to give them the heads-up that I didn't think he understood what "inoperable" meant. He thought it meant it wasn't that serious!

    Six weeks later, he was dead.

  2. ansel8:38 AM

    The link to Lisa's blog is incorrect. It should be:

  3. My dad just had some skin tags removed and one had to be sent away this week for testing. His father's had skin cancer twice, and is missing hunks of his ears. I've been so worried about him this week. Skin cancer is always in the back of my mind. Being born paler than a ghost and growing up in the south, well, I spent many summers bright red and in pain.
    Glad your scare was only a scare.

  4. Since my first cancer scare at 19, I've been acutely aware of how fragile life is. Nothing though would have ever prepared me for losing my father when he was 51. My advice to all my girlfriends is...check/test often and thoroughly...and if your doctor won't listen then dump that doctor fast and find one that will listen.
    Pap smear/mammogram once a year, and be in tune w/your body. You know when somethings wrong.

  5. Having discovered that I have melanoma yesterday, and making the appt to have it removed tomorrow - I completely relate.

    Carmen, mom to the screaming masses, whose blogger sign in is broken

  6. Carmen, it is so scary and all too common! ((hugs))

  7. Colon cancer and breast cancer run in my family, as well as skin cancer. I do get a breast exam with my yearly pap but I probably should do my own breast exams. I'm also always checking my skin for unusual moles or skin damaage.

    Glad to hear you're doing okay now!

    BTW, I found your blog through Mom Bloggers Club! I enjoyed reading the last few posts!

  8. My grandma died of breast cancer and my mother had to have part of her cervix removed because of pre-cancerous cells that weren't going away. I don't do anything more other than to have my yearly pap (which at once point was every 6 months due to a cancer scare with my own cervix a few years back). In a couple years I'll start having routine mammograms. And no, I don't ever feel safe. I've always felt doomed, which is a horrible way to put it, but unfortunately it's true. It's like you put it, nothing can change the fact, it's just like waiting around for it to strike. Maybe that's why I've always felt so rushed in life.

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