Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Bras

Disclaimer:  The content of this blog post may be unsuitable for all readers.  Reader discretion is advised.

Back in June, I received a package in the mail from a friend.  It contained two stretch bras (one black, one beige) and this note:
Jane –
At some point after the surgery, these will come in handy and comfy.
I called her to thank her.  In early July we exchanged emails on a different topic.  My last reply to her in that exchange was this:
Thanks!  And thanks again for the bras.  I cannot wait to fit into them!
~ Jane.
In mid-August, at about four weeks post-op, I wrote to her again:

I've thought about you a thousand times in the last few weeks and just this morning switched from one of my uber-support sports bras into one of the wonderful soft ones you sent me.  With the swelling I've got going on on one side, it is PERFECT...thank you!

The 12-hour surgery went exactly as planned and my recovery is on track, but as you know, it is a long, slow process.  I'm making progress but dealing with scabbing and swelling on one side that will take six to eight weeks to heal.  Still sleeping a lot, easily exhausted and fairly uncomfortable, but thrilled to be on this side of the surgery!

Hope all's well with you,
~ Jane.
Here’s her reply:
These bras have been around the country—New York, Los Altos Hills, Seattle, and back to New York. Glad to help. Let me know when you are up for a short visit. I hope you are moving around and aiding the healing.
Last week, I saw N. at a social event:
“If I’d known you were going to be here,” I said, “I’d have brought the bras.”

“Are you sure you’re finished with them?” she asked.

Rethinking my willingness to relinquish them, I replied, “I’ll try to find them online and order a few.”
Although she urged me to keep one, that night I located them and ordered two (one black, one beige) from a vendor on  I expect delivery this week at which point the traveling bras will go back to N, along with my wishes for a speedy, smooth, and complete recovery to the next woman in the sisterhood who wears them. 

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It’s still October—Breast Cancer Awareness Month, just in case you didn’t know ;-)—and  even though I’m off the hook for a mammogram, if you’re a woman over 40 and haven’t had one in the last 12 months, run, do not walk, to the phone to make an appointment.  If you want a chuckle before you go, check out this post from 2009.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Army of Women Needs You!

I want you! 

You’d have to be living under a rock not to know that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  You might not know, though, that this past Thursday, October 13, was Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day.  In the interest of full disclosure, I didn’t know it either until I saw it on the Facebook page of the Army of Women.   According to its website, the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation's Love/Avon Army of Women has two key goals:
  • To recruit one million healthy women of every age and ethnicity, including breast cancer survivors and women at high-risk for the disease, to partner with breast cancer researchers and directly participate in the research that will eradicate breast cancer once and for all.
  • To challenge the scientific community to expand its current focus to include breast cancer prevention research conducted on healthy women.
In an effort to build a strong voice among researchers and those affected by breast cancer, the Army of Women has launched the The “It Takes an Army” Project, a collection of videos and stories of being touched by breast cancer from its cadre of volunteers. Specifically, the Project asks participants to reflect on these two “distinct moments of realization: When was the moment you knew breast cancer had changed your life? And when was the moment you knew your life could change breast cancer?”

Here’s my submission…

May 9, 2010 was Mother's Day.  As I filled the vase with water from the sink in my mother's hospital room for the flowers we'd brought for her, I knew--I mean I really knew--it was the last Mother's Day we'd spend together.  Her oncologist wanted us to believe otherwise, but what he said didn't synch with the lightning-speed decline we'd been watching everyday for the last five weeks.  My mom had triple negative metastatic breast cancer and 10 days later, she was in hospice.  On May 30, she died, changing my life forever.

November 2, 2010 was Election Day.  A friend accompanied me to my appointment to meet with the Chief of the Clinical Genetics Service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and one of the genetic counselors on his staff.  Several weeks earlier, my sister and I had tested for the BRCA gene mutations and, although she had tested negative, I had learned that I'm positive (as we surmise my mother was) for a BRCA2 mutation that significantly increases my lifetime risk of both breast and ovarian cancer.  As much as I already knew my options, I needed to hear them—I mean really hear them—from people who knew what they were talking about.  At the end of the appointment, at the counselor’s request, I signed paperwork and gave blood to participate in one of many long-term studies underway at Sloan-Kettering.  (I’ve since signed on to several others.)  If there’s even a remote possibility that my mutated genes can provide a teeny-tiny clue to doctors seeking a cure for breast cancer, I say, “go for it!” I am proud and honored to play a role in this work.

*     *     *

Although I’m off the hook for a mammogram (I had a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy in July), if you’re a woman over 40 and haven’t had one in the last 12 months, run, do not walk, to the phone to make an appointment.  It could save your life.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Tale of Two Bookstores: Our Yom Kippur Minhag

Last Saturday at the conclusion of the morning service, my father and I headed to Barnes and Noble for our annual Yom Kippur browse.  (We do our share of browsing together all year long, but we always browse together on Yom Kippur.)

Once in the store, though, we found ourselves distracted, inattentive and dismayed at how much of the merchandise we weren’t interested in browsing—calendars, bookmarks, stationery, teen fiction, Halloween books, games, puzzles and magazines.  Despite the coffee aroma wafting from the cafĂ©, we did briefly peruse the classics, and I thumbed through The Emperor of All Maladies:  A Biography of Cancer.  When I indicated an interest in reading it, my father, who rarely discourages non-fiction, said, “No…you don’t want to read that.”  Still hitting a little too close to home, I guess.  A short while later, still distracted and unfocused, we headed back to temple, where we sat outdoors—enjoying sunshine and warmth—until the afternoon service.

The next day, Sunday, it was too beautiful to stay inside so we headed to Princeton, a great place to wander on a sunny, bright day.  We both knew we’d end up in Labyrinth Books, and a parking spot on Nassau Street directly across from the independent bookstore clinched it.  We didn’t spend much more time there than we had in Barnes and Noble the day before (I had to get back to the city), but oh how much more satisfying was the browsing!  I read a bit more of The Emperor of Maladies, as well as the first few pages of Anne Enright’s The Gathering, winner of the 2007 Man Booker Prize.  My father offered to buy it for me, but with so many unread and partially read books at home, I returned it to the shelf.  It’ll be there when I’m ready.

And now, a rainy chag gives me some welcome time to visit in Cairo with Loulou and her father in The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit:  My Family's Exodus from Old Cairo to the New World

What’s your current read?