October 17, 2006

Questions On My Mind

I’ve never understood why the American Cancer Society has not targeted men when getting the word out about Breast Cancer.

None of the organizations do. And I don’t get it.

Don’t get me wrong. It is not the responsibility of our men to remind us to check. It is not their responsibility to make our appointments for our mammograms. None of it is.

It is ours.

Yet… if you think about it, those of us women in long term serious relationships, who knows our breasts better than our men? Well, other than us, that is a given, but really… it is our men.

This month two women I know well have been diagnosed with Breast Cancer. Both of them are the age of my Mother, one of them probably one of her dearest friends, the other a mother of my husband’s best friend. I know these women… I know them well. I know details of their lives… like if they open their gifts on Christmas Eve or wait until Christmas day. Things like knowing all their children, where they live and how many grandchildren there are. Where they were born, how many siblings they have and their senses of humor. I know their husbands and how long they’ve been married.

I know these women.

And I am afraid for them.

I know women who have been diagnosed and have lived. So far.

And I know women who have been diagnosed and died… old, middle aged and young.

I’ve been in Hospice and held the hand of a friend of mine who lay dying, in a coma, body wracked with the disease.

I know a woman who had stage 4, it had metastasized, and she is on year five of remission. But she and I know… we know that they got her to five years… but will she see 10?

The statistics are infinitely better than they were 20 years ago… 10 years ago… even 5 years ago, yet beyond 5 years, it can still be tough. They can get you to five, but can they get you to ten? Can they get you to... 15?

I have a woman dear to me who has been in remission for this her second year. And it’s her second occurrence in five years. I was traveling with her a few weeks ago and she said to me, “I am 63 years old. When I was diagnosed the first time I knew I’d beat it and live out the rest of my life until I was old and gray. But it came back. And now… I just want to make it to 65. I want to see my granddaughter get to high school. I take nothing for granted and no longer think I will die old and gray.”

Sobering. Realistic, but sobering.

I go every six months. There are things we are ‘keeping an eye on’, ‘getting a good baseline’. Between ultrasounds and mammograms, I am there every six months, I dare not forget.

Ever found a lump? I have. I called my doctor in a panic. He got me in the next day. It is a terrifying experience… and mine ended up being nothing. But until I knew, I found myself unconsciously constantly putting my hand down my shirt, doing breast checks at the sink, in my car, while folding laundry. “Is it still there? Did it grow in the last five minutes since I last checked?”

On my father’s side there are three sisters, cousins of ours. Of the three, two have had breast cancer. The second one was diagnosed but three months ago, I believe. She is weighing her options, their having removed it all, but she will probably, if she has not already, have her other breast prophelactically removed.

That’s what my paternal grandmother did. Back in the day… back in the day when they took your breast, the lymphatic tissue and all the muscle, leaving nothing but what looked like a bird’s rib cage. She had the first removed and then went back six weeks later and said, “Take it.”

Could you do that? As a woman, could you look someone in the eye and tell them to take something from which you fed your babies, something in which you and your spouse enjoyed in the marital bed, the things that fill out your clothes and make you look womanly?

I think of that often. My grandfather was not known to be an affectionate man. A ‘real Son of a Bitch’ has been batted around when referring to him before he mellowed in his 50s and had grandchildren, the word ‘mellow’ being used loosely. But my grandmother told me that when she cried and was horrified as to what she was going to have done to her body, the mutilation to save her life, he tightly held her in his lap and said, “I didn’t marry you for your breasts.”

I think of that often. My answer would be yes. My grandmother… as my role model.

Every year I know more women diagnosed. And every October, when it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month I wonder, “why do they not target our men?”

Why do they not tell our men, “If you love your woman, make the breast exam a part of foreplay once a month”?

The men love our parts that make us soft and curvy. They know how they feel with their fingers, their tongues and their lips. They should be brought on as part of the team to fight it… I suspect they would not be repulsed.

I suspect they would happily oblige…

Posted by Boudicca at October 17, 2006 08:41 PM | TrackBack

I think it would scare the bejeezers out of them... just the thought that we might be sick. Not saying they wouldn't do it, willingly and happily, but I think they'd be scared.

Posted by: Suzi at October 18, 2006 12:25 AM

I think maybe that's not a bad thing...

Posted by: Bou at October 18, 2006 05:58 AM

Men are more worried about their balls than tits

Posted by: JohnB at October 18, 2006 06:27 AM

My husband did marry me for my tits. :)

I often tease my husband...because I like bald men he has nothing to fear if he ever loses his hair...but If I lose my breasts...well, we'd have a problem.

Posted by: Rave at October 18, 2006 06:40 AM

About 10 years ago sweetthing hada mammogram come back positive. During the next 10 days we found out just how close we really are..both of were scared..me of losing her and she was a afraid I wouldn't love her if she lost a breast. I convinced her that her breasts were not what I married her for..

It turned out that it was a false signal..just some kind of tiny growth that was not cancer. However now every year we anxiously await the results of the yearly mammogram and give that sigh of relief when it comes back negative.

Posted by: GUYK at October 18, 2006 07:00 AM

Did you know this post would make me cry?

I think I'll post my own post later today, because my comment would be too lengthy. But... I have asked my husband to pay attention when he's playing with "his boobies." I was 23 when I found my first lump. All the female cancers are in my family history. I take it seriously, even though I'm young and, statistically speaking, don't have to really worry... yet.

Yeh, I'll have to do a post about this topic.

Posted by: wRitErsbLock at October 18, 2006 07:33 AM

Bou, I have often wondered the same thing about men doing the examining. Sorry to hear about your close friends who've gone through it. Hugs.

Posted by: Lisa W. at October 18, 2006 08:40 AM

Even more surprising is that men don't know they can get breast cancer. My uncle had it, he was 94 though and didn't care, but he had it all the same. Though rare, it happens.

Men should be at the forefront in this fight, I agree with you completely. My man is quite familiar with the Girls, so I think I'll talk to him about noticing changes in them!

Posted by: oddybobo at October 18, 2006 10:18 AM

I don't think the advertising would work. Sure, we like to do things with them, and we do like to take care of them -- but not both at the same time. If you want to very quickly END any "bedtime" session, go ahead and ask your man to check for lumps. Sure, he'll do it, but then he'll be done.

Posted by: Ogre at October 18, 2006 10:45 AM

I hate to say it, but I think it's an idea that just won't work.

Many people - men and women - are scared spitless by the prospect of cancer. (for good reason) So to think about it in the context of foreplay... it just doesn't work.

For that matter, women are quite capable of checking themselves for lumps. Those who don't check, skip it because they are afraid. You can't change that either. It's the avoidance thing - if I don't look, I can't find it, if I don't find it, all will be well.

However,trying to make men think about doing a breast exam - in the literal sense - in bed would be psychologically pretty bad for most couples sex lives. (not all of course, but most) And from what I can tell, there are lots of problems with many couples and their sex lives to begin with - without adding the extra pressure of the big sword of cancer popping up in the bedroom during an initmate moment.

Logically speaking it would be an ideal thing... but I've never known logic and sex to be used in the same sentence (except for right here...) the two are mutually exclusive states of mind. As Ogre says... no better way to kill the moment.

Posted by: Teresa at October 18, 2006 11:14 AM

Yeah, I'm still not seeing it that way, but perhaps it is the relationship I have with my husband. It's a once a month thing and I'm not saying he should be solely responsible... not at all... if you read my post, I stated that, but still think it would be good to be a team effort.

Everyone should be alarmed. If doing a breast exam is scaring the crap out of people, I don't have the patience for them. They should be far more scared NOT doing them.

Posted by: Bou at October 18, 2006 03:45 PM

I'm probably gonna get slapped for this, but here goes...

You know what I thought when I read "They know how they feel with their fingers, their tongues and their lips."? This: "Can't talk know - busy, and my mouth is full."

Seriously though, I kinda keep my fingers alert for anything "out of whack" and mention it to Dear Wife later. Always nothing of concern, but since her mother and grandmother both had breast cancer, it's something I pay attention to. As far as killing the mood goes, I can see the point, but guys, you gotta stay focused on the task!

As an aside, I've read that more than a few men are alerted to testicular cancer by their significant others when something seems "odd" with one of the little (or not so little) guys.

Posted by: Bob at October 19, 2006 12:04 PM

I'll say what I'm gonna say, and then I'll flip the jackass switch to "on".

The cancer society is appealing to men. I know it for sure. On the sports talk radio show I listen to everyday, Chris Spielman, who took a year off from the NFL to be with his wife Stephanie because she had breast cancer, does a BOATLOAD of stuff for the "Stephanie Spielman Foundation". He is the man. Now, because of Chris's committment to the cause, Kirk Herbstreit has a commercial about "real men wearing pink". I know wearing pink isn't your point, but it's a start. I probably hear two or three of those commercials every day while I'm in my truck. You get enough names hammerin' the truth out, and it'll get better with us knuckleheads of the not so fair sex...

Having said that, I'd just like to volunteer for any female breast exams, especially involving the methods you describe Bou...

Posted by: RedNeck at October 19, 2006 07:19 PM

I lady very dear to me found a lump under her arm which turned out to be breast cancer. Stage 3 breast cancer. She's been fighting it for years, but it just won't leave her alone. She has breast cancer cells throughout her body. It's only a matter of time, and her will against God's before she is taken from us.

I think breast cancer is so scary because it's so personal, and breasts are a very noticable part of a woman's body. When they're threatened, or missing... I've been told the patient feels like less of a woman because of the missing or affected breast. It's such a shame, to be ashamed of something as sinister as cancer.

Posted by: AFSister at October 20, 2006 02:12 PM