Tag Archive | diagnosis

Skin Cancer Too? Really?!

Photo Credit: nation.com.pk

So the week before last I had some biopsies done.  I had postponed this followup visit to the dermatologist for, oh, about a year and a half.  Yep, I know.  But I’m sure you get it.

The previous two visits had ended with biopsies, some rather large and deep.  The results were mixed — some of my sacrificed moles were fine, others had pre-cancerous cells.

When my first 6-month followup came around, I canceled because, well, I was tired.  I had just finished radiation and was getting weekly infusions of Herceptin that my body wasn’t reacting well to.  And I was spending plenty of time at the hospital and Cancer Center. I just couldn’t deal with one more thing.  Then I just never bothered to reschedule.

So last month I finally picked up the phone and called.  Fast forward to my appointment.  They did a quick once-over, saw some areas of concern, and then scheduled me to come in for biopsies the following week.  I reluctantly but dutifully returned and got a bit nervous when there were two doctors, a nurse, and a tray of scalpels in the room.

It was less involved than it had been on previous occasions.  I was on my side when they took the mole that was on the fringe of my chest radiation field.  After cutting it out, the doctor stitched it up quickly, but I could feel the blood dripping down my back.  They scrambled to get it cleaned up as I mentioned that I was on aspirin therapy so I was a bleeder.

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Photo Credit: dermnetnz.org

They then moved to the lesion on my forehead.  This was the one that had concerned me for months.  It didn’t look like much, but every time I washed my face, even gently, it bled.  I thought this was odd and it was really what had inspired me to schedule the appointment.  The three doctors I saw the first week agreed and mumbled something to each other about act-something keratosis turning into cancer.  And then the two new doctors on biopsy day were mumbling the same thing to each other after looking at it with their special little scope-y things.  The the one turned to me and said it was likely actinic keratosis that became cancer, but I didn’t pay much attention.  I couldn’t have skin cancer, too.

When they got to my head, the numbing needles didn’t really do their job.  Thankfully it didn’t take too long.  But they couldn’t stop the bleeding.  Pressure wasn’t working, so the nurse passed aluminum nitrate (I thought they used to use silver nitrate?) to the doctors and they were finally able to stop it.  They taped me up and sent me home with an appointment card to have my stitches removed and receive my results in a week (last week).

I returned last week and was told that the area on my head is skin cancer.  They said that I would need to schedule my surgery with the Mohs or chemosurgeon at the hospital.  They asked me to head over there to schedule it in person.  Since I had the biopsies done at the hospital, this meant walking across the hall to the Mohs surgery department and the sole surgeon in our area who is trained to perform this type of surgery.

But that was still too long a walk for me at that moment, so I skipped out and went home.  I still haven’t scheduled the surgery.

I try to avoid feeling sorry for myself or dwelling on things that I can’t change.  But, really?  I mean it sounds like this one isn’t that big a deal, especially in comparison to the breast cancer, but I was a bit incredulous when they first told me.

I began wondering about statistics.  “What are the chances of having been diagnosed with two distinct types of cancer before the age of 37?”  I consulted the internet and still don’t know because I was sidetracked by the search results.  Turns out that it is not really understood why someone in this age bracket would develop one cancer, let alone two.

Well, I’ll just have to do my best to avoid a third.

P.S. Please do something for me.  Schedule a skin cancer screening — it’s quick and easy.  And you aren’t too young!

*** I am very sorry to say that a couple of months after I wrote this post, my little sister was diagnosed with MELANOMA, the deadliest form of skin cancer.  So I’d like to reiterate the “p.s.” above.  If you notice something that isn’t normal for you, be it a breast change, an odd-looking mole, or some other concerning symptom, please get it checked out.  It’s important, you are important, and you are not too young for cancer.

PLEASE stop eating PLASTIC!

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Please Try a Sandwich Instead!

After hearing yet another “young” person’s cancer story, I feel absolutely compelled to write this post.  It’s too late for me to prevent my cancer, but it may not be too late for you or your mother, sister, daughter, friend, wife, husband, son, father, aunt…

I am writing today to urge you to limit your intake of the harmful chemicals found in plastic.  Because the dangers of plastic use have been largely ignored by the powers that be, you probably ingest more chemicals than you even realize each and every day.

As a breast cancer patient diagnosed in my early thirties, I am literally sick cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer plastic mastectomy bpa fda garbageover this.  I am actually quite surprised that I haven’t posted about this topic sooner because it is something I think about every day.  Until I was aware of the danger (at some point after my cancer diagnosis), I ate and drank from plastic packaging at least as much as the average consumer.  I used plastic water bottles and those plastic travel coffee mugs all the time.  I left water bottles in the hot car and drank from them without a thought.  I consumed soups and other foods from cans, used plastic food storage containers, plastic wrap and plastic bags, and I didn’t think twice about handling store receipts coated with BPA (bisphenol A, a hormone-disrupting chemical often found in plastics and register receipts and linked to cancer, obesity, heart disease and other diseases).

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer awareness pink ribbon mastectomy illnessCan I blame my cancer on my exposure to the chemicals in plastics and other products?  No, probably not entirely.  But do I think this played a role in encouraging my illness?  Yes, definitely.  As a young person with no family history and no risk factors for breast cancer, I feel pretty justified in pinning some of the blame on an environmental cause, especially since I am in a segment of the population that has seen an increase in breast cancer rates since plastic use became so widespread.

Plastic is EVERYWHERE.  Food, drinks and personal care items like lotions and cosmetics are packaged in plastic more often than not.  This makes chemical exposure almost inevitable.  I have tried to eliminate plastic from my life (and from my children’s lives) but have determined that this would be far too costly and time consuming for tired ol’ me.  In the world we live in today, plastic exposure is virtually unavoidable.  So I have refocused my energy on limiting our plastic use.

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Some of my favorite ways of reducing our plastic exposure:

-We drink from glasses and mugs whenever possible.  I have recycled most of the kiddie cups that once filled the shelves of my

cupboard (and I wish I could take back the years I used plastic sippy cups for the kids).  We make a concerted effort to use non-plastic drinking vessels now.

-I reuse my empty glass Snapple bottles.  I fill them with water (and other beverages) and carry them in lieu of a plastic water bottle.  I  usually keep one or two with me and have a couple in the fridge so I can just grab them and go.  Of course you can do this with any glass bottle.  Not only will you be making a healthier choice for yourself, but you’ll also be making a good choice for the environment.

-We store food in glass and never in plastic.  At first this was really difficult because I just had a few glass storage containers.  cancerinmythirities.wordpress.com breast cancer plastic bpa glassI made makeshift containers by putting plates on top of bowls as lids — not a good use of space!  But I have since asked for Pyrex for Christmas and birthdays and my little collection is growing.

-We have reduced our use of canned foods.  BPA is often found in the lining of food and baby formula cans.

-I avoid leaving cosmetics, lotions and other liquids packaged in plastic in the car.  You may have heard the warning about not leaving water bottles in the car for the same reason — heating plastic encourages the release of toxic chemicals.

-We don’t use “steam in the bag” foods like frozen vegetables.

-Whenever glass is available (for food, beverages, personal care products), I’ll choose it over plastic, even if it costs a little bit more.  We are on a REALLY tight budget, but I think it’s worth it. cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer plastic carcinogens chemicals Unfortunately, though, it’s not usually a choice — glass is often hard to find.  Even the organic hormone-free milk at my grocery store comes in a plastic container!

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Why am I publishing a post like this?  It is not because I’m having a bad day and need to vent (that’s just a coincidence!).  It is not because I am trying to blame someone for the hell I have been through in the past few years.  It is because I want to save someone else from the pain and the loss I have experienced and will likely continue to experience.  It is because I want to save YOU.

While I realize you may not be able to nix plastic from your life entirely, I hope you will please do your best to cut out as much plastic exposure as possible.

And PLEASE ask your friends and family and everyone you care about to do cancerinmythirties.wordpress.org breast cancer squirrel nuts plastic carcinogen bpa fda mastectomythe same.  If you are worried about sounding like an alarmist or a nutcase or a conspiracy theorist, take comfort in the fact that there is enough evidence to support the cancer – plastic link to validate your plight.

You can also consider joining an email writing campaign to urge companies to use safer packaging.  Or sign a petition urging the FDA to ban the use of packaging that contains carcinogens.  Here’s one asking the FDA to ban BPA, a carcinogen found in cash register receipts, in many of the plastics we eat and drink from, and in the bodies of more than 80% of Americans!  It will just take a minute and could make a big difference:

http://www.change.org/petitions/fda-get-cancer-causing-chemicals-out-of-all-food-packaging-now

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I googled “breast cancer plastic” and at the top of the list of search results (other than images of plastic ‘breast cancer awareness’ items — that’s another blog post!), I found an article that was featured on one of my favorite go-to sites for breast cancer information and support — breastcancer.org.  While I love bc.org and think the article is great for creating awareness, I do disagree with one section.  It lists “safe” plastics, but based on my research, it seems there may be no truly “safe” plastics.  Plastic = Chemicals.  Right now the focus is on BPA which was long considered “safe” by the FDA (we’re talking half a century here!).  I believe it’s just a matter of time before more of these chemicals are studied and deemed carcinogenic.  In the meantime, here is the breastcancer.org article:

http://www.breastcancer.org/risk/factors/plastic

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Of course I hope you will share this post with everyone you know and I hope you will work to reduce your chemical consumption.  But I know that’s a lofty dream in today’s world.  So, please do whatever you can.  Whether you do one of these things or all of them, know that I am proud of you.  

If we can prevent even one more person from getting sick, we’ve done something good.

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If you have an idea for a way to reduce plastic use, please share it with us!   Thanks!