Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Throwback Wednesday - The Ugly Stepsister of Cancer

Today should have been my Wednesday Spring Things feature, but something else is on my mind. 

A former New York State Senator from our area passed away yesterday afternoon 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 a former co worker passed away, from breast cancer.

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 (in remission). And now, a family member of my former walking companion is, in turn, taking that walk with cancer.

When will it ever end?

The Ugly Stepsister of Cancer

While I would love to blog about spring today, there is something going on that I need to blog about.
White Hyacinth in my Front Yard 2014

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 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. Cancer is scary and a dreadful one. May you have to never talk or think about it.

  2. When I got the cancer diagnosis over 40 years ago, I was told I would die within 1 - 2 years unless I had a total hysterectomy. I told him I was going to have a baby and refused to die. He got angry with me and told me to go home, suffer and die. I told him I would walk in there pregnant one day and I did just that 14 years later. COMPLETELY whole and well. I found my own cure through nutrition, became a certified health coach and symptomologist and have been helping people find optimum health for decades. I promised myself 40 years ago I would spend my life helping people get well and I have done just that. I recently posted an article about my cancer diagnosis being the best thing that ever happened to me.

  3. Thank you for the reading suggestion. I had a friend who died last year from cancer at the age of 36. Such a difficult thing that affects too many people!

  4. No one should ever have to defend their illness. But we look at people and blame them for stupid stuff. Very judgy. It's best to walk away from those people if you can.

  5. Yes, it is hard to feel sympathy for a smoker who is suffering from cancer. Less hard when that individual is well over 70, when they lacked sufficient data to make the choice. But, for those under 50----. But, that also does not mean that lung cancer is exclusively afflicted upon those who smoke. It's always best to have the facts.
    And, to provide succor to those afflicted with all such malignant diseases.

  6. Thank you for sharing this. As a cancer survivor, I sometimes get strange looks because I don't look like someone who had cancer. I still get my check ups every 6 months. If there is a family history of cancer, I urge the entire family to insist on early and regular screenings.

    #AtoZChallenge Reflections and #IWSG


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