Friday, October 31, 2014

just under the wire

It's the very last day of "breast cancer awareness" month and I have a post up at Mom 2.0 Summit, "Pinkwashing won't cure breast cancer":

"I care about bringing an end to breast cancer. As someone who has lived with the illness since first being diagnosed in 2006, I care very much. However, I don’t think buying fried chicken in a pink bucket or a pink screwdriver is going to change very much at all."

“Women with metastatic breast cancer never really fit in with others in the breast cancer community. To those who finish treatment, embrace the word “survivor," talk about “winning their battle" and never looking back, we represent the worst that can happen. Who wouldn't want to believe that if you stay strong through treatment, stay positive and do everything right, you will get to leave cancer behind?”

I hate pink ribbons and pinktober for a whole host of reasons that I realize I can now rattle off in a two minute rant. Ask me some time. It could be my new party trick.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

some good news for a change

Something good was announced last week and I nearly missed it.

A news release from the Canadian Breast Cancer Network landed in my inbox last Wednesday. It contained the fantastic news that Kadcyla (formerly known as TDM-1) has been approved "on a time limited basis" for "HER-2 positive, metastatic breast cancer patients who have initiated or completed at least two lines of HER-2 targeted therapy and who have not received Kadcyla in previous lines of therapy."

This is very positive news. As I wrote in back in June, the drug was initially only approved for women in their "second line" of treatment which would exclude me. This despite the fact the many women in later phases of treatment have responded enormously well to the drug (each stage of chemotherapy/targeted therapy treatment is a "line." If one line fails or stops working, a patient is moved on to the next. I have been in my second line of treatment since being diagnosed with metastasis in November 2007.)

In other words, this announcement means that I, a woman with Her2+ metastatic breast cancer, will potentially be eligible for Kadcyla when if Herceptin fails.

This has been a rough week in Canada. The events of last Wednesday completely eclipsed this news, even for those of us who care deeply. I live in Ottawa. My kids' schools and my husbands office were locked down all day. My brother-in-law works at the House of Commons and was very close to where bullets were fired. I spent the day glued to my computer screen, watching the news and refreshing Twitter. Despite a host of rumours, it was a great relief to learn at the end of the day that there had only been one gunman but for much of the day, we just didn't know. It was harrowing. And such a tragedy.

I decided to wait for the dust to settle to post this little bit of news but then another big, sad story erupted on the weekend and I once again found myself glued to social media. Last night, there were some I follow posting pictures of kittens and puppies on Twitter, just to have something more positive to in their news streams. 

My contribution to adding #somethingnice to my Twitter stream. A dog in  Hallowe'en costume!

So while the dust hasn't settled, I wanted to share my own little bit of something positive. I'm just left wondering what "for a limited time" means. Will the province then withdraw coverage? Or is this like a trial to see if it makes sense to continue?

The Canadian Breast Cancer Network calls this "a step in the right direction." Let's hope the province takes more and more permanent steps soon. Let's keep the good news coming.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

so i voted

Yesterday, municipal elections were held across Ontario. We elected our mayors, city councillors and school trustees. And I almost didn't vote.

I had a few friends ask me, in the days before the election, "Who are the progressive candidates? How are you voting?" I was at a loss to answer.

The truth is that our mayor, while not running unopposed, might as well have been. And while I acknowledge that he's very hardworking, I'm not a big fan.

My city councillor seems like a decent enough guy but I have not found him to be very responsive, the couple of times I've had to contact his office. I've also heard interviews with him, where he seems to arguing both sides of any given scenario. I'm not sure that makes him very effective at city hall. At any rate, he too seemed to running without any real opposition.

The candidate for school trustee was literally running without opposition, as he was acclaimed.

In my corner of Ottawa, the election was not very exciting and participation didn't seem compelling.

Then my kids overheard my spouse and I talking about the election and asked why I was considering not going to the polls on voting day. I had a hard time coming up with an answer that didn't sound apathetic and lazy to my own ears.

In 1988, I was part of an exchange program, that took me first to Alberta and then India. While we were overseas, a federal election was going to take place. At that time, people out of the country for an exchange program could not vote in advance polls or cast a special ballot (this loophole has long been changed). I was bitterly disappointed, as this would have been the first election since I had come of age.

The other thing I remember is that in my group of 7 Canadians (and seven Indians who looked on with interest), I was the only one who cared that we couldn't vote. As someone who bitterly opposed the sitting government, I wanted to have my say.

I have come to understand the perspective of some of my friends. We are not going to affect great change solely through the ballot box. I guess I've just decided that the ballot box is still important.

My kids are interested and engaged with the world around them. I don't want to send the message that their mother is apathetic or so jaded that she couldn't be bothered to walk three blocks to the polling station.

So I picked up my youngest from school yesterday and took him with me to vote. He watched me fill in my ballot and submit it for tabulation (electronic! Can anyone explain to me why we don't have this at the federal level?). In the end, I filled out my choice for councillor on the single ballot but didn't vote for any mayoral candidate. On the way home, we discussed how I had filled in my ballot and my reasons for making the choices that I did.

All over the world there are those who are denied the right to vote. As a woman, I have only had that right for a short part of my country's history. Showing up at the polls may not change much but I'm glad I have the chance to do so. And I want my kids to understand the range of options they can use to make their voices heard, even in a tiny way.

Friday, October 24, 2014

hold the duct tape

"Women with disabilities often experience health disparity. For instance, in a 2010 study of the barriers preventing women with disabilities from getting screened for breast cancer as often as is recommended, is, believe it or not, lack of physician recommendation. In other words, doctors don’t talk to women with disabilities about getting screened for breast cancer. This is often also the case for pap tests. In a Canadian study (PDF), women with disabilities reported often only receiving healthcare in the narrow area of what is directly related to their disability."

Did you know that women with disabilities often face huge barriers when it comes to breast cancer screening? A conversation with my friend Lene left my jaw on the floor (and I truly thought I'd heard it all). She's written about it on her blog, The Seated View. And be prepared, the duct tape reference is not a joke.