Tag Archives: cancer

Pregnancy and Cancer…Impossible choices my mother made

I can only imagine the thoughts my mother had while she was pregnant with me. My family was very close mouthed about her even with me, and I was only able to glean bits and pieces of history about her or her life. We are talking about the late 40s when, if you talked at all about cancer it was in a whisper “Shhhh don’t tell anyone, she has cancer!”

From the way the story goes, she, for whatever reason after my sister was born, was told she would probably never have any more children. My sister was an only child from 1940 to 1945. At that time my mother realized that once again she was pregnant. I was on the way. She was 39. Two months after my birth, she was 40.

There was a problem. Somewhere along the line, she discovered a lump in her breast. She was pregnant. She had a lump. This was 1946. According to today’s rates, a woman in her 30’s has a 1 in 229 chance of developing breast cancer during the next ten years. Have the rates increased in sixty years? That’s a 0.4% chance if my figures are right. It happened to her.

There was very little she could do.  Maybe she could have a  radical mastectomy using ether as an anesthetic. I have been unable to find information on the effects of ether on a pregnant woman or her baby, but the effects on any patient were sometimes not good either. I don’t know what the medical establishment would have done for her then. Would they have refused until I was delivered? Would they have taken the chance?  Could she have had an abortion to save her own life? I don’t know. Abortion was illegal. I don’t know if there were exceptions to the law in 1946 or not.

I wish there were a way to go back in time to be there when she was going through all this. There isn’t.

She delivered me and had her operation. From what I understand, I was kept by my mother’s sister next door while she recovered. Some time during that first year I returned to my mother’s care. She was well enough to ride in the car with me, my sister, my cousin, two aunts, and my father all the way to California and back when my aunt returned home after nursing her through the operation and recovery.

Some time before I was two,  I have been told that she bent over to pick me up and had a horrific pain in her back. The cancer had spread to her bones. She lived another two years or so, dying in April two months before my fourth birthday. She was forty two.

To discover that one is pregnant is, in general, a very happy experience for many married women or unmarried women who intentionally get pregnant. I like to think that my mother very much wanted me to exist once she found out I was on the way. It is very difficult for me to comprehend her decisions sixty years ago. When she discovered the lump, from what I understand, she put off going to the doctor. When she did finally go, the doctor assured her that there was nothing to worry about. Did she agree with him? I’ll never know. Did she want to know anything different? I’ll never know. I do know that the same aunt came back once again to Illinois and took care of her those last two years.

I only had one opportunity to ask my aunt questions sometime in my early 30s. When she talked about Dr. Malcom, who was my mother’s doctor, she still blamed him for her beloved sister’s death. She said very little, but even after thirty years, I still remember the hate of that man in her voice and the pain she was feeling even talking about my mother. She never realized, and I didn’t say, that I was interpreting her reaction as having preferred my mother to live rather than me.

Being pregnant and having cancer at the same time must be a special kind of hell on earth. The questions that a woman has to face are monumental. Should I continue with the pregnancy? Should I have an abortion? Should I have chemo while I’m pregnant? Should I wait? Is it known yet what future effects the chemo might have on my child or on me? Will I live long enough for this chid to remember me as her mother? Will my husband love this child or will he resent it for all her life for his losing his wife? What effect will losing me have on my baby?

I have a cousin who survived breast cancer about four years ago. I’m not sure exactly what year it was since I deliberately avoid thinking of the year when I hear news like that. I never say anything like, “Oh, it’s 2007. My cousin was diagnosed with cancer this year.” I think when I was in her home last year she said something about having survived three years with no sign of its return. She was looking forward to the fifth year. I think if a woman survives that long, the likelihood of the cancer returning is very small.

Her breast cancer still has not returned. Instead, she now has an aggressive form of leukemia. In some women, the chemo and radiation received to stop the breast cancer are responsible. She had the option of checking herself into the hospital and undergoing very aggressive chemo. It’s spring. She was told she would not be able to eat fresh fruits and vegetables. She would not be able to be around any living plants. She would be in isolation.

She checked herself back out of the hospital the next day. She said no. She wanted to finish the rest of her life surrounded by her family. It’s springtime. She wants to be around the flowers she loves and to watch all the birds in her back yard. She didn’t like the odds of a successful survival being only 40 % or the possibility of the leukemia not returning of only 15%.

It is not for anyone else to question any mother who is pregnant and has cancer. The current legislature is trying to pass laws prohibiting abortion once again even if it means the life of the mother. It is impossible to choose. No other human being should criticize any woman’s choice in a matter such as this. No other human being has the right to tell the woman what to do. She can only listen to her inner voice and make the best choice she thinks is available. Namaste. Attic Annie

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Rage, hermits, Chicago, and crabs in winter

Wow! It seems like the time of my life is simply dragging by with its empty days. I look at the number of blogs I have written in the past several months and to describe them as a “handful” would be generous. The days seem to be disappearing so fast when I look at the calendar but they are endless when I look at the clock.

I have become almost a hermit. I find that during these cold days, my flannel pajamas and thick robe are warmer in the house than jeans and a sweatshirt. Thankfully very few people a year come to my door unexpectedly. I blame my hermit status on the fact that I abhor the cold as much as I abhor the heat, but I feel there is more to it than that. Exactly what it is I can’t really analyze.

I have been on thyroid medication since high school. A few weeks ago a test revealed that the medication level I was on was no longer sufficient. It hadn’t been for quite some time.  Being hypothyroid is not an easy way to go through life, but somehow I feel I should rise above it. I rev my motor, but I still manage to go nowhere. Add that to the anemia and you have a good picture of where I am at this point in my life in the dead of winter.  Many days I just sigh and accept. Then there are days when I say “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”  Dylan Thomas said it better than I:

Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and  rage at close of day:

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Having been reared by a distant father who believed in children being seen and not heard, I stored a life time of things I wanted to say . There were many rages piling up in my thoughts. There were a myriad of events I felt were not justified but instead of showing anger, I simply swallowed and remained silent.

When I started this blog, I found it very rewarding to be able to communicate. Some readers were actually listening to me. Then things began to happen and I let the world get the better of me. 2010 was a banner year for blows. I stopped trying to say anything and let myself once more be swallowed by the silent wrappings of my childhood when it was appreciated if  I would just stay out of the way.

Perhaps I could best be described as a crab or a turtle. The elements of my life have allowed me to build a tough shell about my body. It is my protection. I said crab because I believe I’m the cover girl for Cancer magazine…not the disease…the astrological sign. In this link I found I would say that I fit almost 90% of the description. One has to work extra hard to connect with the world when one is a turtle or a crab. It takes effort to stick one’s head out of the shell.

There are days when I want to rage. I’m not talking about going ballistic about events happening personally to me. Not any more. I’ve been too influenced by “Let go and let God,” . I’m not about to let road rage get the better of me. I’m much more of a “if you need to get there before me, please allow me to get out of your way” kind of driver. I gave up raging about personal affronts decades ago.

I’m talking about the way I see our society heading. I believe so much that is happening in the United States is simply wrong. I see the story of two sisters who get a life sentence for an armed robbery which  netted between $11 and $200 and then I think of the Bank of America who, instead of a gun, used every dirty trick in the book to expel people from their homes to the tune of billions of dollars. Their “punishment”? A temporary ban on their foreclosure activities. They’ve been back at it since October.

Or  someone like the televangelist Jim Bakker who eventually got his forty-five year sentence reduced to five. He didn’t use a gun either. He used  the cross. If Jesus had stayed in the grave, I’m sure he really did a spin in his grave over that one. Bakker gained millions of dollars from his followers. The sisters gained less than $200.  The amount B of A accumulated is still being amassed.

My list of things I wish to rant about is far too long to include in one blog. There are hundreds of injustices I see and hear around me.  Perhaps it is time once again for me to start raging at the dying of the light. When my father died at the age of sixty-three, people said that was a ripe old age back in the ’60s. Now that I have passed that age, I feel there is too much for me to say to even think of cashing in my chips for at least another couple of decades or more.

“A man playing guitar singing for us all.

Will you help him change the world? Can you dig it? Yes I can”

“A bronze man still can yell stories his own way. Listen children all is not lost. All is not lost. Oh no.”

Chicago in the early 70s forty years ago suggested we sing our own songs to help change the world. Tell the stories our own way. All is not lost.

On that note of positive thought I’ll make an attempt to blog more often. Perhaps there is a chance America can still avoid going the way of the Roman Empire. But then again, that empire lasted almost 1500 years and we’re not even half way through the third century. Perhaps there still is hope for the United States if enough of  its citizens continue to rage. Perhaps I can rev my motor long enough to be one of them. Namaste. Attic Annie



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Facing A Probable Loss

I thought after recovering from my surgery I would regain interest in blogging again. Such does not seem to be the case. I guess such a low energy level has a lot to do with it.. There’s not enough energy to power my brain to get it going. My PCP has referred me to a hemotologist for my anemia.

I received some devastating news yesterday afternoon. I have had a friend since fourth grade who two years ago was diagnosed with colon cancer. She’s been undergoing chemo since then following very extensive abdominal surgery and seemed to be winning the battle…far longer than many other colon cancer survivors.

Since we live almost a half continent away going north south, we’ve only touched base with each other a few times a year, but I always know she is there. I tried calling her about six weeks ago and she didn’t return my call. I got caught up in my own medical problems and didn’t pursue trying to contact her again. I’ve been thinking about her for the past couple of weeks and couldn’t shake the desire to talk with her so I called her again yesterday. Again she didn’t answer her cell phone or land line. I left messages on both.

She returned my call yesterday afternoon. We talked in general for a while and then she told me about the inoperable abdominal tumor that was located behind her bladder. Her body isn’t strong enough to withstand another major surgery. The news hit me like a run away train. It was a struggle to keep the tears out of my voice. As usual, she was the one who did most of the talking. I seem to have a gift of having people in my life who carry on mostly monologues when we talk together. That was fortunate yesterday, however, because I didn’t want her to hear the tears in my voice.

She said she was going to give up and let nature take its course, but her family convinced her to try a trial medication that she was offered. She said she gave in and will participate in the trial but if the side effects are too horrendous, she will stop.

She runs the show. She has always run the show. I think that is one of the reasons I have tried to be her friend for more than half a century. She speaks her mind and doesn’t put up with any s^&t from anybody. She champions those who can not or will not speak up for themselves or are in need of help. I have never been able to do that myself. She has been there for me far more times than anyone else in my life. She has always been there as a friend for innumerable people.When I asked her if anyone was helping her, she listed about seven friends besides her family who are checking in on her and keeping track of  her on an almost daily basis.

When I had my heart valve replaced six years ago, we talked a week or so before the surgery. She didn’t skip a beat. She said she would come down and stay with me for a week after I got out. I don’t have the friend and relative support that she so richly has. She used her vacation time without a second thought. She didn’t even wait to be asked. She just assumed I needed her.

When my first fiance broke our engagement less than three months before the wedding, she was living in DC at that time. Since I finished college nine weeks early and didn’t start my first teaching job for five months, she immediately invited me to come out to DC to live with her. Her apartment was within driving distance of Quantico. That enabled me to spend a couple more months on the weekends with my Marine love before he shipped out to Viet Nam in June. He originally told me in my “Dear Jane” letter he sent me that he didn’t want to take the chance of leaving me a war widow at such a young age. Those extra weekends were a gift my friend gave to me that I could never repay.

Our friendship has been off and on all this time as we went our separate ways. I married and moved to Texas. She married less than two years later and lived in Chicago. She was going to be a bridesmaid for my first wedding but by the time both of us married we had drifted apart. Neither of us asked each other to be in the wedding party. I invited her to my wedding. She came but felt miserable. She came through the reception line and told me she had to go back home. She had a horrible cold. There was no time to talk with her. I went to her wedding but my son was only a month old at the time. I had to leave between the wedding and the dinner to feed him. My ex and I went to the dinner but didn’t stay long.

Then we moved to Texas. I lost track of her for years. Out of the blue she sent me a Christmas card one year and from the way she signed it, I knew she was divorced. I called her and we started communicating again.

That’s the way it’s been all our lives. She’s up north, I’m down here. We ended our conversation this time talking about the African safari we promised we’d go on together next year. “Gotta go see the elephants” were the last words of our hour-long talk. She has loved elephants our whole lives. Please pray that the medicine trial gives us enough time to make that trip. It’s just another year. I am hoping that the grieving I’m experiencing now is premature. Namaste. Attic Annie

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Little grains of “rice”

pet-microchip-3This “grain of rice” makes me nervous. I think people should be thinking long and hard before we go down this road.

I’m talking about the futuristic chip that will soon have a million and one uses…or does have a million and one uses already just waiting for people to accept them.

on the skin

on the skin

From what I can gather, the idea of implanting these chips was originally for medical purposes. It would identify unconscious patients being brought into the emergy room and aid the doctors by giving access to medical histories. The idea has been around for a while. It is not brand new. The VeriChip company got FDA approval in 2004. Some suggest imbedding in a hand, others in an upper arm.

Now I have to admit, as I grow older, I begin to think about just such a situation. There may not always be someone with me if I have an accident or pass  out because of medical causes. I realize that medical records are being transferred to computers, but does that now mean that every hospital everywhere in the US or perhaps the world, will soon have access to my medical records? I currently use three doctors…my PCP, cardiologist, and gynocologist the last two for yearly check-ups.  Are those records all going to be available in one central location? What about my various surgeries all at different hospitals depending upon the surgeon?

If the situation is life threatening, how much time will the ER doctor have to sit down at the computer and bring up medical records? If I can’t breathe, I think I’d rather have some CPR going for me. Or, in my case, would the chip simply say Type 2 diabetes, aortic heart valve, warfarin?

I have often thought of this before. My PCP keeps all his records on computer now but he does not do any hosptial visits. The hospital with which he is associated has its own doctors, as do the majority of hospitals these days. I think about whether they will ever have access to his computers on weekends.  I don’t know. I’m thinking they don’t now, but will they sometime in the future?  How would hosptial doctors  know my medical history if I were unconscious and unable to tell them?

Chip implanted

Chip implanted

I guess allowing any hospital emergency room person to have access to medical records could be life-saving. But isn’t the other side of that coin more people who could become identity thieves? What are the safe guards in that situation? Every medical record now uses SS numbers. Low level clerks could find out name, age, birthdate, SS number, etc. at the push of a computer key. They wouldn’t even have to work in medical records. It’s scary enough that every doctor I am referred to has that information in his/her file, considering the turn-over of office personnel. I’m guessing it would be impossible to find out where the leak happened. Of course every hospital asks this information now and I oblige by giving them everything they ask for.

In researching this topic, I ran across a troubling article. Research studies have been performed on lab animals and the results show that these radio frequency implantable devices (RFIDs) caused malignant tumors. Now testing for cancers caused by RFIDs in humans has not yet been done, even though these devices are now being implanted. This is scary:

In humans, sarcomas, which strike connective tissues, can range from the highly curable to “tumors that are incredibly aggressive and can kill people in three to six months,” he said.

This link is very interesting because it talks about who knew what and when. It may be another case of a cover up of information. A company named Verichip is the leading company behind these medical devices. I found a very interesting paragraph in this link:

The FDA is overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services, which, at the time of VeriChip’s approval, was headed by Tommy Thompson. Two weeks after the device’s approval was formally announced on Jan. 10, 2005, Thompson left his Cabinet post, and within five months was a board member of VeriChip Corp. and Applied Digital Solutions. He was compensated in cash and stock options.

Besides allowing for quick dispersion of medical records, there is also talk of creating scanners in stores. All it would take to buy something would be the swish of a hand over a scanner. We wouldn’t even have to take the time to get out a credit card. Now I know there are compulsive shoppers now, but how more compulsive might they become if they don’t even have to think before paying? On the plus side, I guess that might cut down on stolen credit cards. On the negative side, how long before some ghoulish thief decides to remove the implant by whacking off a hand?

Now I can’t see anybody carrying a hand into a department store, but in a safer place the chip could certainly be removed from the dismembered appendage.

Other uses for the chip I read were things like opening security doors, and car doors, turning on car engines, turning on lights inside  a home. It even mentions being able to walk into a chichi nightclub without being barred. Now THAT’S worth getting an implant for. Uh huh.

It mentions RFIDs being equipped to locate someone with a GPS system. On the plus side, if I get lost in the woods or out in the desert, that’s not a bad idea. However, what happens if I am then monitored 24/7 who can track me at any time, anywhere? That idea has already been suggested as a use for Alzeimer’s patients.

Vets and dog catchers are pushing for the implanting of these chips in our pet’s ear. I was considering doing it to Ri-Leigh before I read information some time ago about the possibility of cancer. I think for the time being her old-fashioned ID that she wears on her collar with my phone number is identification enough. And as for me, I’m maybe, kinda, sorta beginning to think about those Life Alert pendants to wear around my neck. The chips are too George Orwellian for me. If you are too young to know that name, you might “enjoy” reading 1984 and Animal Farm. These little devices could fit right in. Since today is Sunday, I think I’ll offer a little extra prayer that these devices don’t really catch on. Or if they do, that they never turn into something required by our government, or that I be long gone and my body cremated after being donated to medical science…but wait…maybe they would keep me artificially alive and inject me with those suckers ALL over my BODY! Ugh! Brrrrrrrrrrrrrr! Namaste. Attic Annie

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