Two Words — Breast Cancer

“Stage Zero? What the heck does that mean?”

My name is Kathi & I’m proudly asymmetrical. At work, I’m a home care physical therapist; at play, I’m an artist, a writer, an Adobe software maven & occasional song parodist. Yes, those are my legs in the icon picture, and that is my Celtic knot tattoo on the right one.

In May of 2008, I had an annual screening mammogram which showed a suspicious group of granules, spread out in a branching pattern in my right breast. After a diagnostic mamm, a stereotactic mamm-cum-biopsy, and a breast MRI, those granules were subsequently found to be high-grade Ductal Carcinoma In Situ, a form of cancer in the mammary ducts that may turn into invasive breast cancer if not treated. I was treated — if you can call amputation, radiation burning & oral chemo poisoning a treat. If they don’t kill you, then you get to live & the cancer dies. I got to live, keep my hair, and get my insurance company to buy me a prosthesis. That’s where I’m at now. Oh, plus still trying to recover from the long- and late-term effects of treatment.

One of the things that helped me get through the big cancer adventure was finding other ‘members of the club.’ One of the other things that helped was to blog about it.

I was never particularly fond of pink, that symbol of breast cancer fund-raising and female gender stereotyping, but I have a new relationship with it now. Unless it appears in nature, I pretty much hate it. There’s nothing good about being a cancer patient, but I found out that there’s a way to get through it with some good grace & even humor. And my friends were phenomenal. I found out that a lot of people care that I’m on the planet, which is a really amazing thing to discover. To read more about the early days of big-adventure-I-could-have-done-without, visit my other pages in this blog, starting with “Shock & Awe” (click on the sidebar link, under “How to be an accidental amazon.”

As time has gone by, and late and long-term side effects have not, this blog has developed in several directions. One of them is to inform readers about informed consent and our right to it. Another is to talk about research — the good, the bad, the hyped — and to help get beyond the headlines. Yet another is to provide personal and evidence-based information about the side effects of cancer treatment, how to recognize them, and how to treat them. And finally, the purpose for which I may most often win new readers is to skewer the rampant pink merchandizing that has come to characterize Pinktober. Breast cancer has been prettified, sexualized and trivialized, all in the name of fundraising. And still, about 40,000 women and men die of metastatic breast cancer every year in the U.S. alone. And we don’t have a cure. And that’s just not acceptable.

I hope you enjoy the blog and find something in it that resonates. And I hope you will join me and countless other ‘Grumblers’ in helping to change the conversation about breast cancer. We don’t need more so-called ‘awareness.’ We need knowledge, competent treatment that doesn’t leave us with debilitating collateral damage, research, and genuine understanding of this complex disease. A little skepticism — and real knowledge — is better than a whole lot of disillusionment.


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