Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Her name was Lauren

More years ago than I want to count (probably around 15) a friend of mine died from breast cancer. She fought a good fight, but ultimately it attacked her lungs, bones and eventually her liver, destroying her one organ at a time.

I knew her because she was a college counselor at the community college where I began my financial aid career after I finished grad school. She was funny, intelligent and one of the most graceful people I have ever known. When I was fussing over a stupid man who was treating me badly, in the midst of her own pain and frustration from dealing with cancer, she looked at me and said "Life is too short to waste time on people who don't appreciate you." Flat out the BEST words of wisdom I have ever received.

She found the lump herself during a self exam. She went to her doctor who looked at a 6 month old mammogram and said it was nothing to worry about. She didn't like that answer, but it took her another month to get anyone to listen to her and do a new mammogram. By that time she was stage 4.

She was 42 years old when she died. She left behind a husband and one son, and countless friends, coworkers and students who were blessed to have known her, worked with her, loved and been loved by her.

Gross negligence.

Those are the words and phrases I think when I consider the latest word from the powers that be regarding the latest recommendations for how often, and at what age women should now get regular mammograms. When I consider they say that self breast exams don't do anything.

Lauren found the lump herself, but was then delayed in getting treatment by incompetent doctors. I don't know that she would have lived if she had been treated right out of the gate, as soon as she brought the lump to someone's attention, but it certainly could not have hurt her chances for life.

I believe with all of my being that this latest announcement has nothing to do with real science, and everything to do with the health care and insurance industry trying to find ways to save money. I feel that there are entities in this world that are willing to put women's lives at risk, to save a dollar. We should not accept this at all. We should not be willing to die unnecessarily because someone wants to make a profit.

I don't know what the end result of these new recommendations will be, but if women die, because they don't get diagnosed early enough, or at all, then what will we do? What will we call it?


phd in yogurtry said...

I am shocked and confused about the "no self exam" recommendation. I can understand, maybe, if worded thus,

"do not rely exclusively on self exams. self exams plus bi-annual mammograms."

but that isn't what I am hearing.

Wenderina said...

I totally agree with this. And I came here after agreeing with you on your response on the WC to the hajib discussion. I guess I'll have to read more to see if we disagree on anything. Thank you for your very thoughtful and balanced response on WC. I ditto'd it in my comment.

Wenderina said...

OK and I just saw on your profile you like the movie 5th Element. I don't know anyone (besides me and my husband) who like that movie. Every once in a while one of us will just say, "Muulltiii Paaasss" and crack the other one up. We're wierd that way.

dubiousMa said...

It's like living in an alternate universe where the government wants you to die. I don't get it either. Are they actually saying "Don't do a breast self-exam"??? Totally surreal.

Angela said...

The recommendations piss me off too. My 58 yr old aunt died. She lived a year after being diagnosed. She had skipped ONE mammogram. Meaning - it wouldn't have been caught at all and she would have had NO chance at treatment.

Dproudmama said...

I figure it is usually about the bottom line. Talk to those who have had a diagnosis and what do they say? What would a few years have meant? And the newer digital images seem to be making for retakes that were never needed before. (Just like coffee is bad one day, good the next. I like that chocolate is back in great favor. ) Perhaps the more we know, the stupider we become. And women over 75 are diagnosed - but then we are old anyway.