Jamie's Blog

Monday, February 22, 2010

Breast cancer, Haiti, and not-so-silly Twitter

My little country church has partnered with an orphanage in Haiti since 2005. It was a constant struggle to raise funds for these dear people. We built the security wall and started two buildings. Then through my breast cancer networking on Twitter I learned of a proposed TV show called Imagine This TV, which is like Extreme Makeover Home Edition, only for communities around the world. Another Twitter friend hooked them up with my Pastor, and they took on our project. THEN when the earthquake hit, people from everywhere, including TV networks, were calling our little church to ask how they could help, because they knew that we knew people in country who were honest and reliable. In the midst of the grief over losing 13 kids we rejoiced that help was coming to our dear orphans. My pastor and I hugged and I said, “Who woulda thunk it? This all started with silly little Twitter! Unless . . . it started with breast cancer!”

If my breast cancer played a part in helping Haitians, then bless you, cancer. I wrote the following poem to express my wonder and gratitude.

When I was crushed by thoughts of suicide and God was nowhere to be seen, I never asked,
Why me?
When I landed in a psych ward battling insanity, I did not ask,
Why me?
When I had breast cancer at 46 it never occurred to me to ask,
Why me?
When cancer struck again, tore my flesh, and tried to steal my femininity,
I shook my fists, I wailed and screamed, "Why, God?", but never thought,
Why me?
Then cancer opened doors to help people with cancer, and their families.
Then Twitter led me to more people with many needs, and to people with more to give.
Then I met people, who could help rescue Haitian kids from poverty and slavery,
and we built walls and wells and hope to the children.
and the world arrived with bounteous help and no place to give it.

Then I understood why me.


Friday, February 5, 2010

Why I Still Recommend Mammograms

Last November the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force created a firestorm with the release of their new guidelines for breast cancer screening.  Here is a short and dirty summary of the controversial recommendations provided by The American College of Radiology:
·          AGAINST routine screening mammography in women age 40-49
·         AGAINST teaching breast self examination
·         AGAINST clinical breast examinations
·         AGAINST previously recommended routine screening for women 75 years or older
·         AGAINST annual screening mammograms for women age 50-74 (Recommending screening every OTHER year versus the currently recommended annual screening)
I don’t pretend to be a cancer expert, so even though my initial reaction was fury (do nothing before 50 or after 74?) and cynicism (could this be driven by insurance companies?), I decided to wait for the dust to settle and see how the real experts responded.  Below is a list of ten organizations so far who reject the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force new recommendations. (For the sake of brevity I list only the names and relevant quotes:  if you want the URLs I will provide them.)  By the way, if I had followed the new guidelines I would be dead: my first cancer appeared when I was 46.
  1. THE AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY is not changing our recommendations for breast cancer screening as a result of this report.  
  2. THE AMERICAN COLLEGE OF OBSTETRICIANS AND GYNECOLOGISTS Screening mammography every 1-2 years for women aged 40-49 years; every year for women age 50 or older 
  3. AMERICAN COLLEGE OF RADIOLOGY Detailed ACR Statement on Ill Advised and Dangerous USPSTF Mammography Recommendations  
  4. AMERICAN COLLEGE OF SURGEONS recommend women get a mammogram every year, starting at age 40.
  5. AVON FOUNDATION FOR WOMEN begin annual screening mammography at age 40, and continue annual screening mammography for as long as the woman is in good health  
  6. BREASTCANCER.ORG: we firmly recommend that women get annual routine screening mammograms starting at age 40.
  7. KOMEN FOR THE CURE wants to eliminate any impediments to regular mammography screening for women age 40 and older…
  8. MAYO CLINIC Mayo Clinic will continue to recommend screening mammograms for women age 40 and older. 
  9. NATIONAL CANCER INSTITUTE Women in their 40s and older should get a mammogram every 1 to 2 years.
  10. SOCIETY OF BREAST IMAGING Breast Cancer Screening Should Begin at Age 40.