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Just Keep Swimming

nemo_doriI just love the Disney movie Finding Nemo, don’t you?  And my favorite quote from the movie is “Just keep swimming…just keep swimming…” as Dori tries to encourage Nemo to not give up.  Can’t you hear her singing it now?

This week will mark my 25th infusion of Herceptin.   I will have 6 more after this on Wednesday, ending on December 9th. We often say where did the year go, right?  Well, this is one year that seems to be dragging on forever.  I have to keep telling myself to “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming” and that the end WILL come to all the drugs pumping through my body.  One of the listed side effects of Herceptin is fatigue but I have never read of anyone experiencing the fatigue I feel now, and in fact they all seem to say that they notice virtually no side effects from it. I guess I am one of the few who do.  I have the constant drippy nose and feel like I must lay down for a nap often during the day.  I survive on caffeine!  The doctor says it could also be a result of the Tamoxifen I am taking, an oral daily drug that blocks estrogen from feeding any lurking cancer cells.  I am suppose to stay on this drug for at least another 9 months but something tells me I would opt for quality of life over this.  That has led me to researching and reading all kinds of information about  treatments for breast cancer and has me questioning the common sense of some of the standards of care given to women in my situation.  The fact is that doctors don’t know what else to do.

It is really quite staggering that even with all the increase in breast cancer diagnosis in the last 50 years, why they have yet to figure out a definative cause or cure.  Surgery, radiation, chemo and hormone therapy are still the only arsinal we have.  Thirty years ago 1 in 30 women got breast cancer. Now that figure is 1 in 8 women. Scary, isn’t it?  So what has changed and why hasn’t treatment changed?  On a positive note, researchers  HAVE discovered what FEEDS 80% of breast cancers and that is estrogen and progesterine. So where are all of these hormones  coming from?  Why are our little girls developing into young women at age 9 now, instead of 12 like it was years ago?  Why are we allowing our dairy farmers to inject our poultry, beef and milk with these hormones and why aren’t doctors warning women of the dangers of taking birth control pills (that was me for 13 years but NO doctor EVER warned me) and hormone replacement therapies?  It all boils down to economic and political reasons.  It is no coincidence that in cultures where women consume mostly a vegetarian and seafood diet the risk of developing breast cancer is substantially lower.  But in America we thrive on convenience and financial gain all at the expense of women’s health and lives. It’s time that something changes for women in America.  It won’t start with our government or our drug companies.  They have too much to lose.  It starts with women.  Women who have had breast cancer and know more than they ever wanted to know and educating other women so that they don’t have to walk in our shoes.  We have already lost so much – and we have nothing else to lose!  And so I just keep swimming and getting the word out there along my way.  I hope that others will spread the word too.