July 31, 2007

ABC's Robin Roberts: 'I Have Breast Cancer'

Cancer! Such an ugly word, I know, I heard it from a doc some 18 months ago and to be honest, it scared the stuffing out of me, but after the first hour or two, I resolved to beat that beast down and so far, I have. Today, Robin Roberts of ABC's Good Morning America announced that she will be undergoing treatment for breast cancer in the very near future.

I never thought I'd be writing this. … I have breast cancer.

It all started a few weeks ago. We had gotten the news that our dear colleague and friend Joel Siegel had passed away and we began preparing for our special tribute show for him. I did a piece about Joel's courageous battle with cancer, reporting on the way my friend had lived his life and been such a successful advocate for the importance of early cancer screenings.

That very night when I went to bed, I did a self breast exam and found something that women everywhere fear: I found a lump.

At first I thought, "This can't be. I am a young, healthy woman." Nevertheless, I faced my fear head on and made an appointment to see the doctor. Much as I was hoping the doctor would say it was nothing, she did a biopsy and confirmed that the lump I'd found was indeed an early form of breast cancer.

"I never thought I'd be writing this. … I have breast cancer," boy, does that ever sound familiar! In January 2006 I wrote:
This is not a post I ever wanted to write. In fact, I don't think it is a post that anyone, ever, anywhere, would want to write. But I have a number of faithful readers and a number of irregular, but delightful readers and I think I owe them something. Thursday, January 26th, I was diagnosed with lung cancer. Talk about a kick in the teeth."
I am so damn sick of hearing about this disease, and yet, if we don't talk about it we will never defeat it. And defeat it we must! So, Robin, I'm adding you to my prayers, my thoughts and with this notice, to the blogosphere and to the world at large, you have joined a club that no one in their right mind wants to join. But sometimes we don't get to make choices. Sometimes we have to deal with what is handed to us, and from what I know about you, you will do fine in that regard.

One of my earlier posts on this disease was specifically about overcoming fear, and that is the first hurdle.

George Patton once famously said: "Do not take counsel of your fears." and nothing could be truer. You can be afraid, but if you act on that fear, you imprison yourself and you feed the future a diet of failure and despair. If you act anyway, despite your fears, you may not survive, but you will have faced the future [and the fear].

For many, many years, when people have asked me how I am, I answer "Alive and well, fat and sassy - not necessarily in that order." I find that to be just as good an answer today as it was before all this cancer stuff started.

To be honest, I hope this post gets picked up and carried worldwide Robin, for a couple of reasons, some to let people know that there is hope and that what was once an absolute death sentence, no longer is. The other is to let people know that they are not alone in this fight. Several months back, taking a page from Glenn Reynolds book "An Army of Davids" I started a blogroll blog called An Army of Bloggers:
Cancer is no respecter of race, religion, social status, income or profession. It is an insidious disease that robs people of a quality of life and too often, of life itself.

Robin, I'm hoping that you too will become an advocate of early screening, aggressive treatment and active research. I suspect that you will. I send to you, advice that was so generously shared with me by Tony Snow, White House Press Secretary.

First, enlist as much love and support from friends as you can, and don't be shy. One of the great distinguishing characteristic of Americans is that they always want a chance to do something good. Many are doing good things for you right now, many completely unknown to you. Some people are afraid of admitting to cancer because they worry that others will treat them like freaks. A very few people will; most will rally in wondrous and surprising ways. Give them a chance to help. They'll come through for you.

Second, talk to other cancer patients. They have street cred others don't. For instance, you're probably now noticing twinges and random pains in far-flung parts of your body. This sort of stuff has been going on your entire life, and you have paid no heed. Now, however, the mere threat of cancer has you wondering whether the killer cells have fiendishly relocated to some unusual part of your body -- from your toes to your earlobes, along with every viscera and soft tissue in between. I remember thinking at one point that pressure in my forehead must have been a sure indicator of brain cancer. Instead, I just had sinus congestion. This sort of panic is normal: I don't know a single cancer patient who hasn't experienced it in one way, shape or form. I finally called my internist and informed him that I was going nuts and needed some sort of stuff to calm me down. He prescribed Xanax. I took exactly one -- conversations with doctors and other cancer patients managed to calm my nerves even better than drugs.

Third, learn as much as you can -- ignorance is your enemy -- but don't get too hooked on internet sites. Many of them are idiotic. Better to consult with your MD Anderson trained doc, who can steer you to stuff that might be helpful. Look especially for success stories. You'd be amazed at how far medicine has come in the last 15 years, and how effective the meds are.

Fourth, keep the fighting attitude. A friend of mine -- a survivor of simultaneous lung, breast and armpit lymph cancers -- described sitting in meetings with fellow breast cancer patients. Some just looked defeated, even though each one of them had far less severe cases than she had. Not one of the defeated-looking patients made it. You'll find that it's surprisingly easy to remain combative once you've begun to shuck aside some of the fear. Just think about the people you love and the things you want to do with them in the years ahead. That should be all the inspiration you need. Furthermore, you'll find that your attitude will change (likely for the better) the moment you get into treatment. It's like going from pre-game jitters to the game. Once the game is on, you don't have any choice. You have to play. So play to win.

Fifth: Realize that fear is a complete waste of time, even though it will creep up on you from time to time. Your full-time job now is to get well. Blogs are nice, but living is more fundamental. The most important part of the aforementioned fighting attitude is to set fear aside and get determined about getting well.

Sixth, relish and embrace your faith. I kept a file of what I called "healing verses," many of which had been forwarded through well-wishers. You can find them sprinkled everywhere in the Bible; Psalms and Proverbs are especially rich sources. Prayer is an amazing thing, and the healing power of prayer -- something I always suspected before getting cancer -- is palpable and real. You've seen the responses already on your site: These people are pulling for you, as are hundreds or even thousands who aren't writing. There's no greater honor than having somebody you don't know asking God to help you. Somehow, the word trickles back, and it will make you stronger."

When Mr. Snow's cancer returned, I sent this back to him, and since then, I know that others have sent it to friends of theirs who are fighting the good fight, so I implore you Robin, join me, Tony Snow, Elizabeth Edwards and so many others; don't quit, don't hang up, but with faith and love hang on and fight hard, fight back and Fight On!

Posted by gmroper at July 31, 2007 11:16 AM | TrackBack

Hope and Prayers are going out GM, not just for her, but for ALL of you that fight this fight...

Posted by TexasFred at July 31, 2007 03:06 PM

Keep at it, GM! We're praying for you

Posted by Fausta at July 31, 2007 06:40 PM

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