Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Throwback Thursday - The Ugly Stepsister of Cancer

This is a repeat of a post from 2016, with a lesson as fresh as today.

A former New York State Senator from our area passed away from prostate cancer.  He was 63.  He represented our area for years and was in the news for years.  A county official, meantime, has been battling lung cancer for several years.

In mid-April of 2016 a former co worker passed away, from breast cancer.

The rest of this post  is originally from May of 2014. And if I was to update it, it would contain even more sad news.

Since I blogged this, the person whose news caused her friend to break a lunch date with me passed away, as did the friend I gave the "Ugly Stepsister of Cancer" essay link to.  The person who broke the lunch date got her own cancer diagnosis in late 2014 (continuing NEC in April of 2018). And since then, a high school and college friend has battled breast cancer.

When will it ever end?  Certainly not today, and if you want to read more about male breast cancer, check out this post that starts out with a man who makes kettlecorn.

The Ugly Stepsister of Cancer (from 2014)

While I would love to blog about spring today, there is something going on that I need to blog about.

But first, a picture for my blog readers to enjoy.  In the language of flowers, hyacinth can mean consistency.  Or, it can mean "I'm sorry, please forgive me."
Last week, I got an email from someone I had a lunch date with.  She had been in communication with a woman she knew.  That person had "a cold that wouldn't quit." Finally, the person sought medical help.

It wasn't a cold.  It was lung cancer.  And before that woman could blink twice, she was being put into hospice care.  Her family called my friend and told her the woman was asking for her.

It was, needless to say, overwhelming. What do you do when you go to the doctor and find out you have something you never expected?  Well, my friend broke her date with me (good for her!) and went to her other friend - one who is suddenly making the acquaintance of the Ugly Stepsister of Cancer.

I decided to go to the library, now that I was without a lunch date. I found a wonderful book there, written by a local (well, from Ithaca, but Ithaca is only an hour from where I live in upstate New York) breast cancer survivor, called "When Your Life is Touched by Cancer". The author is Bob Riter. 

Yes, the author is male and is a breast cancer survivor.  Yes, men get breast cancer.  And, in fact, my spouse is at risk due to his family history.

There is one cancer that Bob Riter, who has worked with cancer patients as the executive director of The Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes, calls "The Ugly Stepsister of Cancer".  It is lung cancer.

Lung cancer patients bear a burden no other cancer patients bear.  They find themselves required to explain their cancer, over and over.  "Do you smoke?"  "Did you smoke?" they are asked when they tell others of their cancer.

If no (which is the case of someone I know who has been battling lung cancer for over two years),  the patient has to explain that yes, some 15% of people who get lung cancer never smoked.

If yes - well, it's your fault.  No support for you!

Why, ever, would we EVER want to blame someone who has cancer for their cancer?  But my friend has been through this, and now my friend's friend will have go to through this, too.

Also, last Tuesday, I gave four trees to a work friend who lives out in the country to plant in honor of a late neighbor,who died while I was on vacation in April.  I can still remember the day he told me, matter of factly, that he had cancer, and how he was trying to make his peace with it.  (And no, I won't describe "his battle", because that's another thing Bob Riter talks about.)

Finally, last Tuesday, my mother in law found out that her cancerous tumor is dead, but she still needs testing to make sure the cancer didn't spread.  And, meanwhile, she has bills coming in.  She's elderly, she does not have boundless energy, and she asked us to help investigate some of the bills.  She seems to be falling through the cracks of help. Wrong cancer. Wrong place of residence.  Wrong wrong wrong.

Cancer has been on my mind a lot lately.  So what I did was....email Bob Riter.

And he emailed me back!

What a marvelous person, and the people of Ithaca, New York are so lucky to have him in their lives.

He gave me some starting points with which to help my mother in law.  And, he recommended that I give my friend with lung cancer a copy of the "Ugly Stepsister of Cancer" essay. He's generously posted it online for any of us to read. (To my friend,  I'm sending her the essay.)

If you have cancer, or have a loved one or friend with cancer, I highly recommend this book.  It is a treasure.  It covers so much, in simple language and in easy to read bites.  Bob Riter has thought of everything.  Well, everything but the line of Hallmark cards I'd REALLY like to see, but that's a blog post for another time.

And now, I hope I don't have to talk about cancer again for a long, long time. But, sadly, I know that is not going to happen.


  1. Just your blog title made me stop and think. I was like "Thursday? I thought Sunday was Monday, but I am sure yesterday was Monday". It is hard for us retirees to keep our days straight, lol.

  2. What a thoughtful post. I deal with the surgical aspects of cancer almost days at work. Sometimes it is people hoping for a better diagnosis. Sometimes hoping for relief or possibly a cure.
    It can be so difficult. Yet there is so much hope and better treatment for many cancers now.
    Yet, the effects of the diagnosis spreads as rapidly through family and friends as it does the patient.
    Sorry to hear of your friend. This is a lovely way to honor her.

  3. Good health is not something to take for granted. As sad as all this is, it's a good reminder to be sensitive and caring and to treat people the way I would hope to be treated - no matter what disease I had.

  4. As a breast cancer survivor, the disease is insidious. It would be hard to meet anyone over age 50 not directly touched by knowing someone with cancer and more likely knowing someone who lost their life to cancer.
    I call prostate cancer the male twin to breast cancer and ovarian cancer the ugly stepsister to breast cancer.

  5. After all the hoopla, all the research, we still have a long way to go to conquering the disease.

  6. The plague of the modern world. So scary!

  7. I'm so sorry. It's sad. Cancer is so scary.

  8. Sounds like a wonderful book written by a kind human being. These days cancer has touched each and every one of us in one way or another. Never thought the day would come when I'd say that.


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