What’s Right With Tacoma: Welcome to the Lucky Woman’s Blast Cancer Stories

  • Kits, who now has a bar code and a QR code, flashed the V-sign for her cancer fight. We can't show you the salute she gave to creepy carcinoma in general. (Photo by Cedric Leggin)

I'll be cutting back on work for a while, and we decided you deserve an explanation: I'm the luckiest person with breast cancer you know.

This poor, weak cancer of the stage 2 B ductal invasive type is doomed. One wonders why it even bothered, given the scores of smart, skilled, kind people arrayed against it with the best science and equipment anywhere.

As the website says, I F***||ing Love Science.

And I love crazy, blessed timing.

At 12 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 1, I went on Medicare, which I have earned and paid for throughout a long, long working life. I'd already enrolled in a solid supplemental insurance policy.

At 11:30 a.m.,Sunday, Dec. 8, my doctor called to tell me the results of the needle biopsy I'd had the week before at the Carol Milgard Breast Center.

Though there is no good kind of cancer, she said, this is the least bad. I will have an occasionally unpleasant walk through it, and I'll survive.

This cancer will not break me, physically.

Because I was born on Dec. 28, 1948, and because we as a nation have invested in and protected our seniors with Medicare, it will not break my family financially.

My heart breaks for the families who have to scramble for the money to treat a mom, dad or child in the fight of their life. My heart breaks, too, for the people whose employers do not support them as mine has. My heart breaks for the people whose cancers are vicious and tenacious. They humble me with their bravery and determination.

My stupid cancer (I like insulting it) will slow me down – already has - and that's good, in its own way.

It's giving me the chance to recognize inspiration, and share it. You may be surprised by how frank, funny and fierce women wearing only socks and bathrobes can be.

Last month, for instance, snugged into one of the Milgard Center's terry robes and reading People's Sexiest Man Alive issue, I overheard two young women complaining about the wait. A dignified woman, senior even to me, finished her Time just as I was not grasping the appeal of Adam Levine.

We traded, and she mentioned that she was on the way to matching perky boobs. She'd had a lumpectomy last year, she said, and it perked that saggy breast right up. Now that the other breast needs a lumpectomy, too, she's on her way to dual pertness.

Be warned that I'll be using the word “boobs” as much as I want, and I may grab some nasty vocabulary when I write about the greedy, creepy cells behind my breastbone, where some of them have holed up. I'm a cancer chick now, and I won't be washing my mouth out with soap. I will, however, be washing my body out with chemicals for the next few months, then zapping it with radiation for six weeks or so.

Though writing is how I think things through, my husband, a few friends, pals at work and my surgeon - talked about whether or not to publish any of this.

I surely don't want anyone to think I'm some kind of inspiring journalist sharing the brave fight of her life for the good of humankind in general. I'm not that selfless woman.

I'm a practical, smartass reporter, and I know this cancer is going down like the Denver Broncos. Until it does, though, I'll be saying no to most of you when you ask me to cover a good story.

But this is a good story, too, said Janne Hutchins, executive director of LASA and cancer whapper. Some people attach stigma to cancer and the people it invades. Be a stigma-buster she advised. Tell people what it's like. Truth is often better than the worst we can imagine.

Tim Miekle, Matt Nagle and John Weymer, my bosses and friends at The Weekly, said I shouldn't write anything that might make me uncomfortable. We had a dilemma, though: If I didn't show up in the paper, readers might worry that I'd been fired, or expired, or was really sick. We decided to go with this story, and tell more about the people, and the cool science, in occasional stories over the next eight months.

Dr. Virginia Stowell, Goddess of Boob Surgery and reader of The Tacoma Weekly, said that, no matter how much is written about breast cancer, more is better. When a friend gets it, people do their breast self-exams and schedule mammograms. She also offered a caveat. The good people of Tacoma, she said, would inundate me with healing wishes, and I won't have the energy to respond with the thanks I feel.

So let's make a deal: Let me thank you in advance for your kind thoughts. Instead of putting them into words, point them at your own boobs. Do a breast self-exam. Set up a mammogram time. That'll make me happy, and it will keep you in touch with your breast health..


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