In an effort to add more cancer related content here on the blog I’ve decided to dedicate two or three days a week to recent breast cancer news, data, facts, stories, and of course my survivor point of view. For some reason, my posts about cancer get the biggest response from my readers – so fire away with your questions on the topic. I’m not afraid.
So you all know Giuliana Rancic from E! News came out late last year about her breast cancer diagnosis, right? Maybe you didn’t and that’s ok. Honestly, news of a celebrity with cancer – Melissa Etheridge, Sheryl Crow, Christina Applegate – maybe got a second glance at the People magazine cover from me while at the grocery store. But since having been diagnosed myself three years ago, I now find I’m really interested in any person’s breast cancer diagnosis. I think it’s just the desire to compare cancer profiles and treatment options.
I’m really happy to see Giuliana talk so publicly about her diagnosis because there is so much blame and shame associated with being diagnosed. It’s ridiculous but so true. The topic is discussed a lot in my cancer support groups. People need a reason and since there isn’t any one specific thing to blame for cancer the finger gets pointed at the person and what they must have done to get cancer. Talk about needing a therapy session to understand that.
Like I said, it’s great Giuliana is speaking out. I just saw an interview she and her husband did to promote their New Years Eve appearance and she talked about how her recovery from the double mastectomy (the removal of both breasts and breast tissues) “was hell.” I didn’t have a mastectomy. I had a lumpectomy in which the tumor was removed but the breast remained. So, I can’t compare my surgery and recovery to hers. But I can compare our profiles and this is where I wish she would divulge more. Is she BRCA positive (does she have the cancer gene)? Was her cancer hormone positive? Negative? Triple negative? HER-2 positive? Were lymph nodes indeed affected (had it spread)?
Her treatment, as I understand it, is the mastectomy and radiation treatment. But I’m confused because People Magazine reported that she had lymph nodes removed and doctors suspected that nodes were affected. If that’s the case, why isn’t she undergoing chemotherapy? Sure, the docs scooped out a bunch of cancerous and healthy nodes but that does not mean that there isn’t one single cell – or more – left in her body ready to conquer and divide at any second. If she’s so hell bent on living then why isn’t she doing chemo too? I hope she isn’t using her career as an excuse because a lot of women – celebrity or not -continue to have careers and go through chemo at the same time. It’s called a wig. And anti-nausea meds. And steroids.
She’s also hell bent on having a child. So, is she saying no to drugs too? Doctors typically recommend Tamoxifen for pre-menopausal women and its taken for a minimum of five years. I’ve read that she opted for the mastectomy in lieu of taking the drugs. Which I just don’t understand if that is the case. I get her desire to want to have a baby but isn’t living more important? She could easily wait another three years (she’s 37 now) and take Tamoxifen during that time and then try to conceive after that. Studies show that even a few years of Tamoxifen could add years before a potential recurrence.
Treatment for breast cancer isn’t black and white and I’m certainly not trying to make it out like it is. These decisions are beyond difficult to make and unfortunately there isn’t a manual that says “If you are diagnosed…this is what you should do.” Doctors can only give you the info and ultimately it’s up to the patient.
Ugh! Breast cancer, you suck. I wish Giuliana a speedy recovery and want to welcome her to the young survivors club.