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Moving on

In The Breast I Can Be: Finding Purpose in Breast Cancer

Jo Lee Ferguson

By Jo Lee Ferguson
July 31, 2017 at 12:09 a.m.
Updated July 31, 2017 at 12:11 a.m.

This has been a weird place.

Really nice people keep asking me how I’m feeling. That’s not a complaint. I appreciate everyone’s concern, but the answer seems weird.

 I feel fine. I never felt bad. Not before I found a lump in breast, not after I found it, not after surgery to remove the tumor and not now. 

Ask me how I feel later this week, though, and the answer might not be the same.

I’m starting chemotherapy on Thursday, choosing to start chemotherapy, actually. That’s an important distinction because no one’s holding a gun to my head insisting I undergo chemotherapy and the possible sickness we sometimes hear about accompanying it.

Plans are for me to have six treatments, three weeks apart. I’m expected to start losing my hair sometime between that first and second treatment. Everything I’ve read says I’ll likely feel bad and be tired for several days after each treatment. I’ll also take some medication that’s supposed to stop the genetic mutation behind my cancer. It sounds like a real treat, too.

I’m going to do all of that even though my little tumor – it was barely more than a centimeter -  is gone and the cancer hadn’t technically spread to my lymph nodes. (I say technically because it was barely in the lymph node that was removed, but it wasn’t large enough to count as having actually spread.)

My practical side asks, “Why would I do all of this to myself?” Truth be told, I would rather not.

Not all breast cancers are the same. Doctors said mine had a couple of markers that indicate it was an aggressive kind that likes to travel and come back around for another visit. I’ve been thinking of it in terms of “Friday the 13th” and “Halloween.” Jason and Michael Myers always came back after everyone thought they were dead. (Cue the screaming, scantily clad girl who just can’t seem to stop falling down.)

My doctor told me that if I stop now, and do nothing else, there’s a 20 to 30 percent chance the cancer would return. If I submit my body to a wee bit of abuse, that drops to 10 percent.

Journalists are notoriously bad at math, but I understand those statistics. If I do chemotherapy I improve my chances of sending my invader packing for good. I like that idea, particularly since I have a lot of years to go before my baby Fergusons leave the nest.

In the weeks since surgery to remove the tumor, I’ve just been enjoying summer with those boys, including stopping at my friend Edie Landinger’s home to share in her annual summer bounty. Edie has one of the greenest green thumbs I know. Her garden and fruit trees give without ceasing, it seems. This year she invited me, the boys and my niece to pick figs from the large tree in her back yard. (Pictured.)

Edie told me the tree has been there for 30 years. About 10 years ago, it was struck by lightning, which split part of the tree. She says she and her husband, Carl, thought it would die and they considered cutting it down. Instead, the tree grew and flourished, even where it had been split.

Today, the tree is wide, and taller than her house. I think there’s some symbolism there – for how we can grow and be fruitful despite whatever lightning strikes our life.

I’ll be thinking of that this week, along with this one other image, from the new Wonder Woman movie. I’ll admit I’m not a diehard comic book fan. I leave that to the men in my house, but I loved that movie, and this is absolutely my favorite scene. It shows Wonder Woman, leaning into a battle in the trenches of World War I - not for the sake of the fight, but for the sake of ending it.

I’ve decided I’m with her.




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