Breast Cancer Hits Home
The non-infectious epidemic can strike any time.
Thursday, October 8, 1998
Breast cancer, in the news. Big numbers: how many, how long, age of diagnosis. Statistics. Chemo, cancer specialists, plastic surgeons. Tables of numbers, demographics.
One of every seven Caucasians and one of every 10 African-Americans. One of 12 Hispanic women. One of 13 Asians. Your sister. Breast cancer.
Now it hits home. Your sister has breast cancer. What does this mean to her? To her husband and children? To you? Your parents?
Lists of incidence statistics, columns of totals and percentages are perused to glean comfort, to quote with assurance to family and friends. But if breast cancer were an infectious disease, its numbers would be epidemic. So where''s the vaccined sugar cube? The shot providing immunity?
Each breast cancer patient I''ve encountered focuses on her survival, quality of life, freedom from discomfort, and family response, not on national studies. And she greatly needs emotional support; worry about a husband''s/boyfriend''s response to her loss of a breast layers another anxiety on the heap.
Dana Calhoun, oncology program coordinator at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital, adamantly confirms this compound problem of breast cancer: "Treatment of the emotional stress of the disease is every bit as important as management of the physical symptoms. Most of the people in our support groups take a very active role in their own well-being and in so doing, are able to offer help to other women. You know, the ''This worked for me, maybe it''ll work for you'' approach."
Vern Cooper is the kind of man who positively influences his wife''s attitude. "Jeanne was diagnosed with breast cancer a few years ago. She told me that several women in the support group feared facing the disease alone but that''s not the case with us. We go to her doctor, educate ourselves and make treatment decisions together." Jeanne Cooper has been very active in the support group, sometimes a coordinator.
Dr. David Moorwood is a local plastic surgeon who, like his colleague Douglas Sunde, MD, emphasizes the unique anguish breast cancer can present. "Breast cancer is a triple threat: the big ''C'' word, the loss of a body part, and a part that is associated with maternity and sexuality. It''s difficult for a woman to make a decision about treatment when she''s considering body image and femininity. Fortunately, recent advances in plastic surgery, like using natural tissue in breast reconstruction instead of implants, allow both optimal treatment and reasonable body image. Positive body image as an outcome of cancer treatment removes much of the threat."
So what can you and I do to combat this non-infectious epidemic? One answer is, "Support early diagnosis!" How?
Here''s an imminent opportunity: The local "Breast Cancer Awareness" campaign invites motorcycle bikers to a morning poker-hand ride around Monterey Bay on Sunday, Oct. 11 culminating at the afternoon Sandy Shore Productions'' "Indian Summer Music Festival" at Seascape Resort in Aptos with artists Spyro-Gyra, Keiko Matsui, Tim Weisberg, Steve Reid''s Bamboo Forest, and the Laura Chandler Band.
A portion of biker ticket proceeds will provide mammograms to some lucky women living in the Monterey Bay area. Bikers will be admitted to "Preferred seating," have a chance to receive a fantastic prize for the winning poker hand, and will be special guests at a wrap-up celebration. Tickets are available through Sandy Shore Productions at 649-1223. Information is available through Country Home Care at 625-2284.
Campaign sponsors are BMW Motorcycles of Santa Cruz, Country Home Care, Gizdich Ranch, Mammography Center of Monterey, Monterey County Bank, and Monterey Medical Group.
Not a biker? Then make a donation. And make sure your wife or girlfriend schedules a mammogram. Now.
Elaine Hermann is a local health care provider.