Little Brats Sometimes Grow Up To Be Big Brats

by admin on October 17, 2017

I’m from a very small town and I grew up on a street full of kids my age and in my class at school. Although we all had our differences, we got along well enough as we grew up. But when we were younger the girls on our street were ruled by Sarah. She lived in a gorgeous little house and always had really great clothes and toys and her mom was by far the prettiest mom on the street. The rest of us were always a little awestruck by her even though she was just plain nasty to us.

As we got older, she began to get into a lot of trouble. She drank, ran around with boys and was smoking among other things by the time she was in the seventh grade and it wasn’t long after that that she was sent to live elsewhere.

Ten years later we had all graduated and gone our separate ways and Sarah was long forgotten. I had been to university in another part of the country and I moved to a major city close to my home town when I was finished. I had been dating a boy from back home and he was my first serious relationship. We were spending a weekend in our old town and were invited to a small party at his best friends house. His friend just happened to be dating Sarah’s sister and both she and Sarah were there.

Sarah and I had not set eyes on each other in about a decade and she eagerly regaled me with tales of her life. She had quite the colourful life! I listened politely, showed appropriate responses (“Then I lost my job.” “Oh no.” “I moved back home and its going well.” “Oh good! I’ll bet your mom is thrilled to have you close by.”) and so on. Then she asked what I was doing. I had accepted a job in sales with a big telecom company that had recently moved to our part of the country. It was an awesome job! I didn’t brag though. I just said that I was in sales for such and such company. She was shocked.

“Really? My goodness are you serious? I just cannot believe that!”
I thought that she was being complimentary. She wasn’t.
“I’m shocked. I mean you were always so smart. I thought for sure that you’d be something successful like a doctor or something. You seriously work there? Wow.”

My job wasn’t glamorous but I’ve been there for nearly ten years now and it pays well, provides excellent benefits and is a job.

There was some drinking that night and the roads were icy so we all slept over. Breakfast was the perfect time to get more digs in. And Sarah didn’t pass up that opportunity.

“I seem to remember that you were always a very strong Christian. Yet you slept in your boyfriends room and – maybe I’m wrong – but you slept in his bed too. Are you guys being intimate? Isn’t that entirely against what you believe? I just can’t believe how far you’ve fallen. I mean I know I have my past but I’m going to church with my mom now and now that I know that sex outside of marriage is a sin I feel so guilty and terrible. If I had known that it was a sin before then I would have never done it. How can you, knowing that you’re sinning against God, still do that?”

Even Sarah’s sister was shocked by this. I was too stunned to say anything more than that my life was between me and God and that I was content to leave it at that. 1108-13

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The Neighborly Note

by admin on October 16, 2017

I live on the second floor of a three-plex. My roommates and I had the following letter placed in our mailbox (one of them threw it out before I got to it to make this post, so this is transcribed as best I can remember):

Dear Residents of [Our Address]:
We have a concern we want to raise with you. We are asking you to please be aware of when and how much you walk around in your apartment, especially at night when the noise makes it hard for us to study and sleep, and especially on the right side of the building.

Thank you,
Your Downstairs Neighbors

Now, I would understand if we were stomping around or blasting music, but all we were doing was walking! Now, this apartment is rather old and creaky (and believe me, it’s as annoying for us, since we’re still below another apartment, as it is for them), but we weren’t doing anything particularly out of the ordinary, the floors were carpeted, and none of us were even in the habit of wearing shoes in the apartment. The right side of the building was also where all of our bedrooms were, and the only hallway leading to the bathroom, so it wasn’t like we could stay out of that part of the unit.

To her credit, my roommate replied with a very courteous note that was basically a longer version of the Ehell-approved “I cannot accommodate your request” (detailing briefly the fact that one roommate had a very early class, two of us worked until after 10pm, and one roommate’s dog occasionally needed to go out in the middle of the night, and also saying that we were sorry for the problem and see what we could do), but I was shocked by the person or people who would send a request like that. What do you think? 1216-13

I think it’s always better to communicate rather than have neighbors who say nothing but instead retaliate with amplified noise making of their own or who complain continually to the landlord.

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No Invitation To This Family Dinner

by admin on October 12, 2017

This happened to me a number of years ago, but I still wonder if there was a breach of etiquette, or if I was just overly sensitive at the time.

When I was thirty, I joined an internet dating site and met a young man online called “Jack”. Jack was only 25, but he and I clicked almost immediately and began corresponding. He lived in a city on the other side of the country, but after about two months we decided that, as things were progressing well, it would be good to meet in person. For various reasons, it made more sense for me to visit him, rather than vice versa, so I booked a ticket to visit for five days. I was staying with a friend in that city, and planned to spend one day solely with her, but the understanding was that if things were going well, Jack and I would spend the majority of the remaining four days together.

Although Jack and I felt we might be a good match, his family (especially his father) did not agree, which was an issue as he lived at home with his sister and parents. Firstly, they did not approve of the five year age gap, or the fact that I “needed” to use the internet to find a boyfriend. (Of course, the same might be said of Jack, but they did not see it that way!) At the time, I was working full time as a teacher assistant while doing some postgraduate study: although my salary was sufficient for me, I made much less than Jack did as a nurse at a private hospital, which also concerned his parents. Thirdly, I am vegetarian and Jack was not – another point of concern. Finally, it was suggested that I was not very “athletic”. This confused me initially: while it is true that I do not enjoy team sports, and am not good at them, I do enjoy active pursuits such as cycling, swimming, multi-day hikes and fun runs. It eventually became clear that “athletic” was a euphemism for “attractive” and I can’t dispute that. I’m afraid that I am quite average – neither ugly nor beautiful – in the looks department.

Despite this opposition, Jack met me at the airport and after the expected nervousness, we found that we got on very well indeed. That afternoon, however, his father called and told Jack that he was expected home that evening for family dinner, which meant Jack, his parents, his sister and his sister’s boyfriend. I was not invited. I could tell that Jack felt uncomfortable at having to relay this, but he did not want to upset his parents. So he dropped me back at my friend’s place and went home as instructed. Assuming I would be busy, my friend had already gone out, so I spent a lonely evening.

Was it rude of his father not to invite me to dinner? Was it rude of Jack to take me back to my accommodation early and leave me there? Or was it a perfectly reasonable thing to do?

(For the record, Jack’s family did invite me over to dinner a few nights later, and went to the trouble of making a vegetarian dish specifically for me, but sadly they continued to disapprove of me. After offering to help with dinner, for example, and being told that no help was needed, I took my hosts at their word; but apparently I should have made a second offer, as my failure to help was considered rude. Perhaps it was. In any case, the relationship ended a few months later, largely in part to the family’s disapproval.) 0126-14

Jack was not ready for a committed relationship as evidenced by his still living at home and that he could meekly acquiesce to a summons to appear for family dinner.  He was not yet an independent man but was subordinate to his father.

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Wedding Wednesday – Go Away, Jay!

by admin on October 11, 2017

I’ve been reading through your archives when I was reminded of the worst event surrounding my husband’s and my wedding (and yes, I realize that I was very fortunate that this was the only issue!) This is truly my husband’s story, although I was privy to parts of it.

As a bit of background, my then Future Husband (FH) and I had met during college via a Live Action Role Play (LARP) group. After we graduated, he joined/helped start a group for the LARP in his hometown, which he invited a number of his coworkers to join. Most of them did, including one whom I’ll call Jay. Jay was one of those guys we’ve probably all encountered in college: a bit too loud, a bit socially awkward, but you’re pretty sure might possibly be coming from an okay place. Except in Jay’s case, once you got friendly, he began to overstep boundaries. Hard.

The worst case was one night while my FH and I were Skyping one another (we had a period of long-distance dating for a while), Jay showed up at FH’s place. At 3 AM. Unannounced and simply just to hang out. When FH told him it wasn’t possible and cited the fact that he and I were currently on the phone, Jay proceeded to make lewd remarks and sounds. Suffice to say, neither my FH or I were particularly happy with him for that one, and FH began to limit contact with Jay. This limiting was further helped by the fact that FH quit that particular job to work elsewhere.

But Jay was still a member of the local LARP chapter, so he knew when I moved in with FH that we were getting married soon.

So he began to pester FH for the date. FH beandipped as best he could for a while (he hasn’t had a lot of practice and tends to be fairly blunt), but eventually, after a LARP meeting, spilled the proverbial beans.

Jay’s immediate question after hearing the date: “So who am I riding down with? And where am I sleeping?”

Please note, FH nor myself had ever made any indication that he was going to be invited to our wedding. In fact, beyond FH’s best man, none of the LARP group had gotten an invitation. So his question was pretty stunning.

FH, trying to be polite about the fact that Jay wasn’t, in fact, invited, told Jay that there wasn’t enough room in cars or a set place to stay. At which point, Jay insisted that we, the wedding couple, could travel in separate cars so he could get a ride and that he’d be willing to sleep on my parents’ floor since that was where we’d be staying!

At that point, FH told Jay outright that he wasn’t invited. Jay at that point looked crestfallen and told my FH, “That cuts me deep, man. That really hurts.” He then got into his car and drove away.

And we’ve literally never heard from him again. 0126-14

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As regular readers know, I was diagnosed with breast cancer this past May and had taken a sabbatical from posting during surgery recovery. As this particular cancer journey has progressed, I have become increasingly aware of how much misinformation and stereotypes there are regarding breast cancer and the significant role social media and the media in general plays in hyping up fear. I see the fear flicker across women’s faces when I tell them of my diagnosis or hear the actual gasps and condolences they offer me. The words “breast cancer” strikes terror in the hearts of many. When I inform someone of my cancer diagnosis, I find myself needing to immediately qualify it by adding that it was caught very early and my prognosis is “exceptional”.   What has contributed to this is media saturation of stories of women with stage 3 and stage 4 breast cancer such as actress Shannon Doherty which leaves the impression that the typical breast cancer patient is in dire straits. While I am not famous on the scale of a celebrity actress, my attorney claims I am a semi-public figure, and therefore I wanted to put my story out there as an example of the many tens of thousands of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer, get treatment, recover and move on with their lives leaving cancer behind them. There are many thousands more of us than the celebrity cancer victims.

So, are the Shannon Dohertys really the only face of breast cancer? I don’t think so. This year, an estimated 252,710 women in the United States will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer, and an additional 63,410 women will be diagnosed with in situ breast cancer. If the cancer is located only in the breast (an early stage of cancer), the 5-year relative survival rate of people with breast cancer is 99%. Sixty-one percent (61%) of cases are diagnosed at this stage. That’s nearly 190,000 women who will hear the terrifying news that they have breast cancer yet their prognosis is outstanding. If the cancer has spread to the regional lymph nodes, the 5-year survival rate is 85%.  The truly amazing news is that breast cancer survival rates have been increasing every year.

And what is powering the increase in survival rates?  Mammography.  A recent study by researchers from the University of Michigan explored the question of whether mammography makes a difference in survival rates.   The researchers found that since mammography was introduced, there has been an overall 9% decrease in invasive breast cancer diagnoses . This decrease has been offset by an increase in diagnoses of DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ), which isn’t invasive.  This means mammograms are finding more breast cancers early, when they may be less complicated to treat.   This conclusion was supported by a study conducted by a team of researchers at the Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands who studied every breast cancer case registered in the country from 1999-2012 —nearly 174,000 cases.  Before 2006, the breast cancer survival rate was 91 percent. After 2006, it was 96 percent, they reported in the British Medical Journal.  Women survived longer after 2006 because the tumors were smaller when they were removed and less likely to have spread, they reported.   “Diagnosis of breast cancer at an early tumor stage remains vital,” they concluded.  Mammography has helped reduce breast cancer mortality in the U.S. by nearly 40% since 1990.

My final staging was pT1Mic meaning I had what is called a “microinvasion” of invasive breast cancer measuring half a millimeter amid a larger segment of Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS) cancer.  If I had had pure DCIS, I would have been staged at Stage 0 but that tiny speck of invasive cancer put me “barely out of Stage 0” as my surgeon said. The detection of so small a cancer is due to 3D digital mammography and the fact that I have had an annual mammogram for years which formed a baseline image that made detecting the tiny difference easier. Actress Christina Applegate champions the cause of women getting annual mammograms after her own diagnosis of breast cancer which was also discovered at a very early stage during a routine mammogram.

Delving into the online stories of women with metastatic breast cancer, I found a disturbing trend of a failure to have annual mammograms. Shannon Doherty did not have any breast cancer screening tests for the four years prior to her diagnosis.  Digging further, I found a few authors of popular breast cancer blogs whose cancer was metastatic who had also not availed themselves of annual mammograms.    This may sound like victim blaming but, for me, I have nothing but sad pity for their plight.   My cousin’s best friend died of metastatic breast cancer one month after diagnosis after spending years refusing to have a mammogram.   Even for women 50+, skipping a mammogram every other year would miss up to 30% of cancers.  The absence of breast cancer screenings due to it being an inconvenience, or that it hurts, or fear of finding cancer or a belief that mammograms are unnecessary are all personal life choices women have made but I wonder to what extent regret factors in when those choices backfire.  It’s pointless, and indeed cruel, to cast blame on past decisions that cannot be changed in the here and now.  There are women who still receive a diagnosis of more serious breast cancer despite an annual mammogram because breast cancer is a capricious disease.  BUT, among women who have annual mammograms, the statistical odds are greater for dying in an automobile crash than being diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer.  The reality is that an annual mammogram is far more likely to detect cancer at an early stage and it’s sad when women decline the opportunity to use a tool that could prevent a lot of heart ache, fear and pain.   GET A MAMMOGRAM, LADIES!

The most difficult aspect of receiving an initial diagnosis of breast cancer is the waiting for all the pieces of the puzzle to fall into place so that you know exactly what kind of cancer you have, what the staging is and what treatment options are. For a data junkie like me, this waiting was excruciating. I wanted information NOW and sometimes looked to Dr. Google for answers. The problem with Dr. Google is that the stories of other victims are not *my* story and it was too tempting to borrow trouble, and in some cases, borrowing grief, from other people’s experiences. I think that is the danger of media stories of actresses fighting for their lives, i.e. the temptation is strong to think their story will be your cancer story.  Julia-Louis Dreyfus’ recent press release announcing her diagnosis of breast cancer frustrates me because she declined to reveal the severity of the cancer and as expected, the media reported it with all the drama it could muster about her “battle against cancer” thus promoting fear. But Dreyfus’ cancer story may not be your cancer story.

Online forums populated by breast cancer victims could have the potential to be helpful but I found them to be unproductive in large part because of the self-selecting nature of those who frequently post.   One long time poster in a popular breast cancer web site community forum made the observation several years ago that the people most likely to post to the forums are 1.) Newly diagnosed people who are rather hyped up and poorly informed; 2) People with emotional issues related to being diagnosed with cancer ; 3) Trolls who fake breast cancer and whose stories on the forum terrify women; and 4.) A few  “angels”, i.e. people who are credible, post constructively.   It took time to discern who the “angels” were amidst the chaos of emotions and factual inaccuracies people reported and I only found three people I could trust.   And yes, there are evil trolls who thrill at spreading terror in a forum by fabricating the worst possible case.  Googling “breast cancer scam” reveals that this is a not uncommon fraud women have done to financially exploit the compassionate.

Forums are a self selecting population of patients who seek out this medium to express themselves, often presenting the worst cases that are not typical.  There were several times I’d get frightened by something I read in a forum, ask one of my oncology team doctors about it only to be told, “In 20 years of practice I’ve never seen that/only saw it once.  And stop reading those forums, Jeanne!”.   One particular example was breast cancer radiation therapy threads on forums wherein posters described all kinds of problems they had from radiation.  You’d think, reading the thread, that nearly all women undergoing radiation therapy have these heinous problems but the reality was much different.  None of my acquaintances who had breast cancer reported those problems and my own experience was rather mundane and easy despite my anxiety that had been fueled by reading too many breast cancer forum posts.    Because my breast cancer had not moved into the lymph nodes, I did not need chemotherapy but I did choose to undergo adjuvant radiation therapy that has been documented with numerous science-based research to reduce the risk of recurrence by 50%.    Body position while going through breast cancer radiation treatment matters. Nearly all women undergo breast radiation therapy lying on their back.  I was offered the opportunity to do radiation lying on my stomach in a prone position.  Recent studies show that this new approach reduces the amount of lung and heart tissue affected by radiation therapy by 90 percent and I eagerly choose to do radiation in that prone position.  I had the expected “sunburn”, parts of my skin peeled like a sunburn but I had no fatigue and no issues with lungs. Those horror stories of bad radiation were not my cancer story nor, it seems, for the majority of patients.

In fact, no one I personally knew in real life with breast cancer had ever read an online forum nor ever posted to an online forum about their breast cancer.    The reality is that many tens of thousands of women get breast cancer,  get treatment that is rather typical and uneventful, and come through it just fine to then move on with their lives not looking backward and having never told their tales online.  Patients like me do not invest considerable time writing a dedicated blog week after week, for years, about their experiences with cancer.   One blogger, whose blog I read a few times, had begun to question whether her blogging and association with other breast cancer bloggers was healthy for her.

Another damaging piece of misinformation that I routinely saw bandied about on blogs and forums and even news articles was the alleged data fact that “30 -40% of women with breast cancer have a recurrence which typically leads to death”.  I can’t begin to tell you how much anxiety this caused me.   My very sweet, compassionate and exceptionally experienced radiation oncologist shot that one down quickly and then proceeded to tell me a story.  “I fell asleep the other night watching a PBS show about singing baboons (it was actually gibbons, Dr. J) in a jungle in Pakistan.  I think you need to watch more singing monkeys than reading stuff online.”   In other words, get on with your life, Jeanne, it’s going to be OK.  And Dr. J was right,  the rate of recurrence in 10 years is between 2 to 15 % depending on tumor size and what subtype (hormone receptor status and HER2) the cancer is, according to recent research.   My cancer was triple positive, i.e. estrogen and progesterone receptor positive and HER2+, which the data shows having a 2.2% recurrence rate in 5 years which is the time interval during which most recurrences are most likely to happen.   There are cancer victims who do have a 30-40% RISK of recurrence but they have a relatively rare type of cancer known as Inflammatory Breast Cancer. Remember, 61% of all women diagnosed each year with breast cancer are diagnosed with an early stage cancer and their prognosis will be “exceptional”.  Even more women are diagnosed with Stage 2 and early stage 3 and still their prognosis is good.  The scary numbers of “30-40% recurrence leading to death” is not their cancer story.

Whether reading a forum, or a news article, or some social media thread, you should always ascertain what the cancer victim’s “story” is, i.e. what stage, tumor size, and type of cancer it is, and what treatments they had.   It’s fairly easy to get scared reading these stories until you realize that their cancer is far more advanced/larger/spread to lymph nodes or organs than yours or that they opted to not treat their cancer with conventional medicine whereas you did.

One thing I was completely unprepared for was the strong advocacy of some women for total mastectomy as opposed to a breast conserving lumpectomy which I believe is largely fueled by the news media presenting stories of celebrities opting for radical mastectomies as if this was the only option. My oncology surgeon’s recommendation of a lumpectomy is based on 15 years of conclusive research data that the survival rates for total mastectomy versus lumpectomy with adjuvant radiation therapy were identical. There is no survival advantage to a radical mastectomy for my type of cancer. I did not expect to have to defend my decision to follow my surgeon’s experienced opinion for what was best for me but it appears I am not the only person to have experienced this peer pressure.

This past May, just weeks before I would be diagnosed with breast cancer, I published a blog post entitled “Etiquette of Cancer: Keep Your Quack Cures To Yourself” in which I detailed the ridiculous and offensive pressure I had received during a prior experience with cancer to cure it with unproven, even dangerous remedies. Hoo, boy, breast cancer brought out the worst of these people. I was advised to eat nano colloidal silver to cure my cancer; to not trust my doctors at all; that my cancer was due to my body being acidic and therefore I needed to eat alkaline foods; and the worst were the people who believed my cancer was caused by a bad diet and therefore I could cure it with diet alone.   The latter strongly emphasizes that “you caused your cancer, you can cure it”.  There is an alarming and disheartening trend to convince breast cancer patients to NOT have surgery but to cure it with any number of utterly quack remedies. I got sent URLs to videos of women claiming to have cured their breast cancer with coffee enemas, rubbing urine on their breasts, drinking 6 veggie smoothies a day and consuming a mini mountain of supplements daily.   Umm, no, thanks.  Given that recent studies document that cancer patients who choose alternative medicine have a higher risk of dying from their cancer, I consider the promotion of unproven treatments on people in a vulnerable state to be deceptive and evil.  Mind your own business and don’t offer any opinions or suggestions about treatment unless we ask you for them.

One author of a blog dedicated to her battle against metastatic breast cancer died of the disease.  That alone can cause the anxiety levels in me to shoot up…that is until I went searching for the details of her cancer and how she treated it.   To do so requires looking at the “About” link or searching through very early blog posts.  I found that this late author has chosen to treat her high grade, aggressive breast cancer with alternative medicine.  Her cancer story is definitely not my cancer story at all.

So, the purpose of this post was to, hopefully, mitigate some of the misinformation and stereotypes about breast cancer and to give people hope that a diagnosis of breast cancer, especially caught early, is not an automatic death sentence.  If you are one of the tens of thousands of women diagnosed with an early stage of breast cancer (as defined as being limited to your breast) each year, you are in the majority (at least 61%) of women diagnosed and your prognosis for a good, long life is very good.   The celebrity cancer stories are not your cancer story.

Get an annual mammogram.
Hire the best doctors you can find (I love mine!)
Trust your oncology team of doctors if you do get cancer.
Be careful how much you read online and engage your critical thinking skills if something online scares you.
Wearing pink is optional (I don’t).

 

 

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Social Media Party Pics Reveal Who Was Invited And Who Was Not

October 5, 2017

It used to be that when you did not invite someone to an event, you just kept quiet about it. Etiquette dictated you did not discuss events to which you were invited with people who were not invited. If you were uncertain whether or not an individual was invited to the event you did not […]

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Wedding Wednesday – Volunteer Vendoring Rarely Appreciated

October 4, 2017

Several years ago, my then-boyfriend and I agreed to cater the bridal shower for his childhood best friend’s girlfriend’s sister (yes, in retrospect this already sounds like a bad idea – and yes, the sister of the bride was hosting the shower, a big faux pas). However, we both worked in the food service industry […]

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