OH MY GOSH THIS CAT IS SO CUTE I CAN’T EVEN OH MY GOSH OKAY BYE
My mother fought cancer for almost a decade and died at 56. She held out long enough to meet the first of her grandchildren and to hold them in her arms. But my other children will never have the chance to know her and experience how loving and gracious she was.
We often speak of “Mommy’s mommy,” and I find myself trying to explain the illness that took her away from us. They have asked if the same could happen to me. I have always told them not to worry, but the truth is I carry a “faulty” gene, BRCA1, which sharply increases my risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
My doctors estimated that I had an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer, although the risk is different in the case of each woman.
Only a fraction of breast cancers result from an inherited gene mutation. Those with a defect in BRCA1 have a 65 percent risk of getting it, on average.
Once I knew that this was my reality, I decided to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much I could. I made a decision to have a preventive double mastectomy. I started with the breasts, as my risk of breast cancer is higher than my risk of ovarian cancer, and the surgery is more complex.
On April 27, I finished the three months of medical procedures that the mastectomies involved. During that time I have been able to keep this private and to carry on with my work.
But I am writing about it now because I hope that other women can benefit from my experience. Cancer is still a word that strikes fear into people’s hearts, producing a deep sense of powerlessness. But today it is possible to find out through a blood test whether you are highly susceptible to breast and ovarian cancer, and then take action.
My own process began on Feb. 2 with a procedure known as a “nipple delay,” which rules out disease in the breast ducts behind the nipple and draws extra blood flow to the area. This causes some pain and a lot of bruising, but it increases the chance of saving the nipple.
Two weeks later I had the major surgery, where the breast tissue is removed and temporary fillers are put in place. The operation can take eight hours. You wake up with drain tubes and expanders in your breasts. It does feel like a scene out of a science-fiction film. But days after surgery you can be back to a normal life.
Nine weeks later, the final surgery is completed with the reconstruction of the breasts with an implant. There have been many advances in this procedure in the last few years, and the results can be beautiful.
I wanted to write this to tell other women that the decision to have a mastectomy was not easy. But it is one I am very happy that I made. My chances of developing breast cancer have dropped from 87 percent to under 5 percent. I can tell my children that they don’t need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer.
It is reassuring that they see nothing that makes them uncomfortable. They can see my small scars and that’s it. Everything else is just Mommy, the same as she always was. And they know that I love them and will do anything to be with them as long as I can. On a personal note, I do not feel any less of a woman. I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity.
I am fortunate to have a partner, Brad Pitt, who is so loving and supportive. So to anyone who has a wife or girlfriend going through this, know that you are a very important part of the transition. Brad was at the Pink Lotus Breast Center, where I was treated, for every minute of the surgeries. We managed to find moments to laugh together. We knew this was the right thing to do for our family and that it would bring us closer. And it has.
For any woman reading this, I hope it helps you to know you have options. I want to encourage every woman, especially if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, to seek out the information and medical experts who can help you through this aspect of your life, and to make your own informed choices.
I acknowledge that there are many wonderful holistic doctors working on alternatives to surgery. My own regimen will be posted in due course on the Web site of the Pink Lotus Breast Center. I hope that this will be helpful to other women.
Breast cancer alone kills some 458,000 people each year, according to the World Health Organization, mainly in low- and middle-income countries. It has got to be a priority to ensure that more women can access gene testing and lifesaving preventive treatment, whatever their means and background, wherever they live. The cost of testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2, at more than $3,000 in the United States, remains an obstacle for many women.
I choose not to keep my story private because there are many women who do not know that they might be living under the shadow of cancer. It is my hope that they, too, will be able to get gene tested, and that if they have a high risk they, too, will know that they have strong options.
Life comes with many challenges. The ones that should not scare us are the ones we can take on and take control of.
Here, have some cats on your dash.
Using the Threat of Violence to Shut Down Debate.
You didn’t have to be Nostradamus to see it coming, but I’ll take credit for it anyway. When Mayors Against Illegal Guns announced they’d be holding rallies in eight states Mother’s Day weekend, I wrote, “Expect armed goons to show up to at least one of these, because if there’s anything the gun nuts really lack, it’s class and a nose for good PR.” Lo and behold, at a rally in Pennsylvania, said goons showed up.PhillyBurbs.com: As victims of gun violence spoke about how universal background checks might have saved a loved one’s life, pro-gun supporters jeered and yelled remarks Saturday in Morrisville’s Williamson Park.
Steve Kesselman of Holland raised his voice above the crowd to briefly talk about the loss of his 20-year-old son from a deadly shotgun blast after an argument last year.
“My son is dead! His mother cannot enjoy him anymore because of gun violence! Universal background checks is all we’re looking for. I have nothing against guns!” Kesselman yelled into the microphone.
“Do you believe in unicorns?!” a pro-gun supporter yelled from the crowd.
“Gun owners from groups such as Concerned Gun Owners of Bucks County, the National Rifle Association and a New Jersey group called the NJ2As gathered at Williamson Park before the marchers arrived,” according to the report. “Many wore guns and rifles.”
“I think it’s ridiculous the way they’ve been acting. I’m so numb to the idiots out there,” Kesselman said of the armed counter-protesters.
I don’t want to refer to my own writing on the subject too often, but I’ve been on a bit of a tear lately, so the info I’ve for previous posts is the info I have closest at hand. So I’m going to go ahead and refer back to a post from last week, where I argued that things like armed protests should be taken as open threats of violence on par with terrorism:So you’ve got people who hate government and want to kill tyrants. And these are the same people who see tyranny under every rock. Polling shows that nearly half of all Republican voters think armed revolution “might be necessary” in the near future. A reasonable person wouldn’t be out of line to wonder when all this tyrant-fighting was going to start and it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think it could be any second now. And when they hear about a terrorist attack with an unknown motive, it’s not unreasonable to wonder if maybe all this tyrant-killing has finally gotten under way.
When people argue that violence, murder, and assassination are legitimate political tools, brandishing firearms is meant to frighten people into silence. It’s bullying and, like all bullies, these bullies are cowards. Anyone who shouts in the face of a peaceful grandmother isn’t a model of courage. And anyone who heckles a father speaking about death of his son is not a paragon decorum. These people don’t want to have a debate. In fact, they’re so terrified of the discussion that they’ll show up with guns to try to shut it down. These people call themselves “patriots,” but they’re really just cowardly thugs. Courageous people don’t need to hide behind their weapons.
And they’re ineffective thugs, at that. They couldn’t shut down the rally in Morrisville and they won’t stop the growing movement to reduce gun violence, because the issue is way too important. It’s not going to get derailed by a bunch of tantrum-throwing toddlers afraid someone’s going to take away their binky. That importance was underscored the very next day, with a Mother’s Day mass shooting in New Orleans. Nineteen people were injured while attending a parade, when three men opened fire on the crowd. Two of the victims are children.
So wave your guns around and menace old ladies and jeer at grieving fathers all you want, gun nuts. We’re not going anywhere. Every time there’s a mass shooting or a dead kid, it strengthens our resolve. And if you feel the need to wave your guns around in a crowd of families and children, you’re just proving our point. We’re pretty convinced you shouldn’t be able to do that.
If you want to have a rational discussion about how to deal with gun violence, that’s fine. We may not agree on everything and may walk away as divided as we were before, but that’s the way it’s supposed to work. Democracy’s not supposed to be easy or comfortable all the time. But if your idea of “debate” is to stick a gun in someone’s face and tell them to shut up, then we don’t have a lot to talk about.
You’re nothing but a goon and you’re part of the problem.
[photo via PhillyBurbs.com]
A Supercell Thunderstorm Cloud Over Montana
Image Credit & Copyright: Sean R. Heavey
Listen to the Rain
“He’s like fire and ice and rage. He’s like the night and the storm in the heart of the sun. He’s ancient and forever. He burns at the centre of time and can see the turn of the universe. And… He’s wonderful.”
In the heart of the mythical Elqui Valley in Pisco, surrounded by the Andes Mountains, 500km north of Santiago in central Chile, lies a magical place that allows for star-spangled dreams beneath the clear pure sky. Combining stargazing and specialized astronomic tours with night-time horseback riding, meditation and even tarot readings, Elqui Domos is a hotel quite like no other.
It was completed in 2005 to fulfil its owners’ desire to observe and enjoy the grandeur of the one of the world’s most star-filled skies. It is one of only seven astronomic hotels around the world and the only one in the Southern Hemisphere, offering breathtaking views of the magic skies draped over the Elqui Valley (the valley is renowned for its sharp, clear skies, as it happens to sit under one of the clearest atmospheres in the world). The lack of rain and pleasant weather all year round set the perfect conditions for astronomic tourism, where guests can gather to enjoy a unique chance to liaise with the stars.