Friday, January 09, 2009

Time Flies When You're Having Cancer

Last year at this time I was headed to Sloan NYC to consult with the indescribably wonderful Dr. Larry Norton about my options regarding treatment. I'd yet to begin treatment. Had only done the lumpectomy (which had technically rendered me cancer-free already). Was unhappy with that bitchy oncol I consulted with down here, and was slightly on the fence about lopping off the tatas.

Mom, dad, brother and I piled into Norton's office.

"You know we could've done this over the phone," he said.

"Yes, but I wanted to meet you. And it's the perfect excuse to head to Bergdorf's and our jeweler afterward."

"Ahh, my kind of people," he said, in his Larry David-esque way.

He was the final word on my treatment protocol. Hell, he and his team invented the Sloan Protocol for BC treatment that's used throughout the US.

After I asked him what he would advise his daughter to do if she were in my situation; after he said a bilat mastectomy with four months of chemo was my "safest option;" after he told me he trained my now-oncol Dr. Michael Schwartz in Miami Beach; after he gave me the name of the most superb wigmaker in the country (if not the world); after I vetted my surgeons through him; after he told me that yes, Mesko, Rosenbaum and Schwartz would be my BC dream team; after watching mom, dad and brother jotting down notes furiously; and after seeing the anxiety in their eyes—imploring me to have the bilat mastectomy and chemo, my decision was made.

I'd chop 'em off. I would go see Ralf for the wig. I would get Dr. Schwartz. I would endure four months of chemo and countless surgeries to protect my own life for my family's and my sake. I was 100 percent confident that what Norton said went. And so it went.

And, as you know, I sailed through last year, and finished up treatment and all surgeries in eight months. I made the right decision. I don't live in fear of recurrence. That slight, eight percent chance of recurrence doesn't haunt me. It's not even an option, I knocked that fucker out of my body and that fucker will stay away for good. Women with the BRCA gene who elect merely lumpectomies, single mastectomies and no chemo live in fear of the cancer returning, and it often does. As I know from countless women reaching out to me.

I read their emails, "I had a lumpectomy and now it's back, years later."

Or, "I had a unilateral mastectomy and I'm unhappy with my reconstruction, do you know surgeons in NY?"

My heart aches—pardon the cliche—for them and I *know* that I made the right choice. I'm cancer-free and plan to stay that way. My tatas are beautiful and scar-free. I go bra-less. I feel great. And short, Jewfro aside—thank god for my Ralf—I am back to my pre-cancer self. And my, how time has flown. Time flies either way, having fun or not. I worry less about the future now than I ever did. I've hit bottom and am back on top. It wasn't all fun, but it wasn't all bad either. We partied and celebrated and laughed our way through a year. My friends and family kept me happy and sane and awash with beautiful gifts and cards and thoughts. My vanity kept me looking good.

So for all you ladies reading, especially those of you who think you *may* be BRCA positive, I urge you to explore all your options. To let your health and future outweigh your vanity and fear. To know that breast cancer can be beautiful and humorous and educational. And to know that so many of you can take preventative measures to kick cancer's ass before it knows what hit it. And, perhaps of the utmost importance, save yourself from losing your beautiful hair and having to start from Jewfro scratch. Get tested. Get a mammogram. Do those self-exams that I never did. Educate yourself by following these simple links.

Take advantage of modern medicine that our mothers and granmothers didn't have. Some doctors *are* miracle workers; and so are some of us Cancer Chicks. That's all.