Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Science, Boobies, and Breast Cancer

October is Breast Cancer awareness month. There are all sorts of days and weeks and months designated to promoting awareness of worthy causes, but breast cancer is especially important to me since my mother is a survivor. She was diagnosed the summer before my senior year of high school, which would be a little over four years ago. My mom was very lucky in that she caught the cancer early because of her persistent self examination. She felt a lump, but the doctors didn't believe her - she nagged them and had more than one mammogram before they realized she did, in fact, have breast cancer. If she hadn't been checking herself and been so diligent, I'm afraid to think what would have happened to her.

I have to admit, at the time I wasn't really too worried. It was probably a combination of me being young and naive, and knowing that she had caught it early enough that her prognosis was good. My general mantra for dealing with bad things in life is don't worry about what may happen, just do your best to avoid it and fret when it actually does happen. To me, we just had to be level headed, get treatment, and hope for the best. If her status worsened, then I could start freaking out. Not only do I have an oddly unemotional approach to life, but my mom was a fighter. She tried not to let it show how sick the chemotherapy made her, or how sad she was about losing her hair. Instead she would buy trendy hats or talk about how maybe she'd be more stylish by keeping her hair short after her treatment.

She even said the cancer didn't upset her - the thing she feared the most is that she wouldn't be able to watch my senior golf season because she would be too weak (I was the captain of my team and one of the best players in the region). My mom scheduled her chemo and radiation around my golf schedule, so she would be sick on my practices and well enough to walk with my Dad and follow me during my matches and tournaments.

She would brag to the nurses how her daughter was going to go study genetics and maybe solve all of these problems. While I'm not in cancer research and there's not going to be some magical "cure" that works for every type of cancer, she still recognizes the roll that science plays in saving lives. I've said before that my mom is sort of a deist, but I don't remember a single time her asking for people to pray for her, or referencing religion in any way. What I do remember is discussing treatments, what certain chemicals do, how radiation actually works... How I was learning about cancer in human genetics, and she would ask me how exactly cancer starts, how likely you are to get it, if her cancer means I'll get breast cancer, if certain genetic tests were worth while... We talked about science.

Science saves lives, and it can only get better at saving lives if they have money and support. Visit the National Breast Cancer Foundation for information or to donate. Susan G. Komen for the Cure has a good review on breast self exams, for those of you with boobies (or with girlfriends whose boobies you like to prod). For those of you in the twitterverse, you can participate in #boobiewednesday to show your support for breast cancer research by tweeting about it and changing your avatar to a photo of your chest (yet more incentive to follow me on twitter*)!

I know there are some feminists who hate boob campaigns, like selling shirts that say "I Love Boobies", because they say it reduces woman to their breasts. To an extent, I understand. Breast cancer research isn't about saving boobs, it's about saving women. If a woman has lost her breasts, that doesn't make her any less human. But I don't think these movements mean any harm. They're just exploiting people's infantile humor (omg boobies lol) in order to raise money for a good cause. It would be lovely if people would just donate money out of the goodness of their heart, but they don' the way I see it, let's milk boobie humor (haha, get it?) for all it's worth. In the end, it's saving lives.

*No, you don't get a bigger version of that pic. You'll have to live with 48 pixels.


  1. « the way I see it, let's milk boobie humor (haha, get it?) for all it's worth. »

    You are deliciously pervy, m’dear. ;-)

  2. Great post. I'm glad your mom's cancer was found early. We all have to be our own health advocates. Sometimes you've just to nag the doctors to do what they should do automatically.

  3. Let's remember that it's not just women who die of breast cancer as well. While only 1 in 100 cases of breast cancer are masculine, they have the same lethality rate. So dudes, if you notice something in your chesticles, get it checked out.

    I just watched the P&T episode on breasts. Great episode, recommended to everyone.

  4. Excellent point, Veritas. I thought of that right after I clicked submit, but I figured someone would bring it up in the comments.

  5. Aw, I'm the someone who brings up stuff in the comments.

    Interestingly enough, the only case of breast cancer in my family was masculine, that I know of, and I sure hope we have no more. But it does happen, and it's important to remember, so many guys just go, "That's chick cancer."

  6. My mother is also a breast cancer survivor. She also caught it early. They were able to remove it and then she went through radiation, no chemo needed. My mom is doing great, like nothing happened.

    My mom's sister was just diagnosed with breast cancer last month. She had surgery and is now going through Chemo and radiation. So far she is doing good.

    I am glad your mom is doing good also.

    Breast Cancer Awareness is such a great cause, it should be year long though. Partially for the irreverent jokes...

  7. It's funny how, even though testicular cancer and breast cancer kill about the same amount of people each year, breast cancer "awareness"(?) is so much larger..../masculinist rant

  8. This must be one of the most deceptive topic titles ever. I will ascertain to get my man-boobs checked regularly, as by the above suggestion. Preferedly by The Significant Other, or when all else fails, a doctor.

    On a more serious note, with cancer running in my family, I fully support this message. Xommie seal of approval, way to go Jen!

  9. Please be aware of snake-oil peddlers that prey on cancer patients. These hucksters exploit people at their most vulnerable - destroying their lives and stealing their money.

    Please don't get suckered by false promises and 'natural cures'. Always get professional advice and treatment from a legitimate physician.

  10. Ben beat me to it, but I was about to whine about what the reaction would be if I tried posting photos of a prostate self examination.

    Seriously, though. Men are cowards about feeling up themselves and more awareness would prolly be good.

    Glad to hear your mother made it.

  11. Men feel themselves up all the time... there is a multibillion dollar industry dedicated to helping them do this. I guess they are just scared about admitting that in public? I never understood it (being a man and not being reserved about it).

    Also, Sili, the awareness campaign would be just a little bit different --

  12. Well, duh, but penis cancer isn't all that common.

  13. True, but there are more testicular ailments than cancer. Men should check themselves monthly, regardless of their age. I'm 25 and I do. It's responsible.

  14. If I beg really hard can I have a bigger picture? Like 50 pixels maybe?


  15. Wow, your experience with your mom has been identical to mine. Thanks for posting this.

    Yay for raising awareness, I really don't give a rodent's posterior how we go about in doing it. (To an extent... I won't post pictures of my man-boobs :p)


  16. I tend to be wary of many of the breast cancer awareness organizations not because of the "I heart boobs" slogans, but because many of them exist solely to exist, which is to say that the money they collect goes directly into their coffers for next year's Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and only a minority of it (or sometimes none) goes toward research, or toward free mammograms for women without health insurance, or toward services to aid women with breast cancer who don't have health insurance.

    Awareness, I think, is an auxiliary goal that should be pursued only so far as it aids research and treatment initiatives, but for many organizations, awareness is an end in itself, and women benefit only indirectly if at all; perhaps someone who was inspired by an "I heart boobs" campaign donated to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, but someone else might donate to an organization that only funds itself, or purchase breast cancer merchandise from a company that gives nothing to charity, and that doesn't really help the cause at all.

    I suppose my upshot here is that people should pay attention to where their donation money goes; make sure it's getting to research or to women with breast cancer and not getting caught up in a infinite promotional loop.

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