More on “Awareness”

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A guest post from Tamera Shanker, originally posted on Boo-Bee Trap

Before I was diagnosed with Invasive Lobular Carcinoma, I was aware of the prevalence of breast cancer. I knew it was a disease that struck mostly post menopausal women. I was aware that women who have family histories; who smoked; who took oral contraceptives for prolonged periods of time were more likely to be stricken with breast cancer. I was aware of mammograms and lumps and lumpectomies and mastectomies. I was aware of the existence of radiation and chemotherapy treatments.

I was aware that Channel 12 has it “Buddy Check 12” campaign. I was aware of the Pink Ribbon campaigns. I was aware that every October there was a hub-bub about the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. I was so aware that for the last 15 years I ran the “Race for the Cure”; ironically shaving off up to 8 minutes in my pace time each year. (As it turns out, I guess I wasn’t running fast enough!!!!)

It wasn’t until I was blind-sided with a diagnosis of breast cancer this summer that I became aware of the breadth of my ignorance. There was, and still is, so much that I did not know about the disease and its treatment. And, none of the information I received over the last 15 years of my “pink” involvement ever even hinted at the depths of my naivete.

For example . . .

  • I did not know there were myriad of causes of breast cancer – the majority being man-made. I did not know that women without genetic predispositions could get breast cancer.
  • I did not know that women who did not live a high-risk lifestyle could develop breast cancer.
  • I did not know that there were subsets to breast cancer (ductal, lobular, inflammatory and Paget’s Disease).
  • I did not know that as a pre-menopausal woman in good health I could develop breast cancer.
  • I did not know about sentinel node biopsies. I did not know about drainage tubes (“d-bombs”)
  • I did not know about tram flaps; or that as a 100+/- lb person I am not a candidate for one (And thank the Creator for that one – not a procedure I would have wanted!)
  • I did not know about the long term effects of chemotherapy.
  • I did not know about Adriamycin (aka “Red Devil”).
  • I did not know about Tamoxifen (or that outside of the U.S. it is listed as a cancer-causing carcinogen).
  • I did not know about Herceptin and Aromatase.
  • I did not know that the medical community treated pre-menopausal women differently than post menopausal women.
  • I did not know about Oncotype DX and MammaPrint tests for chemo efficacy. I did not know about how a cancer is “staged.”
  • I did not know that mammograms are not a dependable or effective way to early-detect Invasive Lobular Carcinoma.
  • I did not know that a Vitamin D deficiency can be a contributing cause in the development of breast cancer.
  • I did not know how key Vitamin C is in preventing the occurrence and recurrence of breast cancer.
  • I did not know that a build up estrogen in the body is toxic. I did not know that the only way the body effectively disposes of unneeded estrogen is through daily waste elimination.
  • I did not know about E-cadherin and protein tests and saliva tests and hormonal balancing.
  • I did not know about the vast discrepancies in how breast cancer is approached and treated in the U.S. as compared to Europe – and that stateside we are not on the higher road.

and so it goes on, and on, and on . . . . AND

I did not know what an insidious and pervasive industry that breast cancer has generated in the U.S.! I did not know that the med-pros really do not have a “CURE” for breast cancer, but rather a “PROTOCOL” – that they are vociferous in the application of their established protocol, that the protocol has not changed much in 50 years, and that despite the protocol women are still dying, at times BECAUSE of the protocol!

I did not know that even though 100s of millions are raised for research that we are still no closer to a CURE!

I did not know that some of the pharmaceutical companies that produce & distribute cancer treatment drugs consciously include cancer-causing carcinogens in the household products and foods we consume!

I still do not know on what the money we raise “running for the cure” is actually spent on??!!!

I did not know that I would need to become my own “lay expert” in order to earn a voice in the discussion regarding my breast cancer!


  1. Andrea
    Posted October 19, 2010 at 2:00 pm | Permalink


  2. Danielle
    Posted October 19, 2010 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    Wow, I couldn’t have said that better myself… YOU GO GIRL!

  3. Posted October 19, 2010 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    I echo a previous comment: brilliant. Courage to you. What you have said needs to be read and heard, by other women struggling with breast cancer, and by people who think fundraising for the industry to raise “awareness” and search for a cure is a valid response.

  4. Posted October 19, 2010 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    Did you know you could support the fight against breast cancer, simply by taking a nap? That’s what Purina says, anyway.

    Your experience is so important to hear. Thank you for sharing it.

  5. Posted October 20, 2010 at 5:07 am | Permalink

    Excellent post Tamera ! Did you really just blow the roof off Komen’s entire campaign in half a page ?

  6. Mary
    Posted October 20, 2010 at 5:12 am | Permalink

    Outstanding! You said what I’ve been trying to tell people for so long, but the fact that you’re a cancer survivor gives you much more credibility.

    Trying to get people to think past the “standard of care” medical paradigm in treating cancer is so difficult. There are better, safer, less invasive and yes, less expensive ways to fight cancer. I have two sisters who are breast cancer survivors and another who is a Leukemia survivor and I am at high risk for breast cancer. To me cancer is cancer – it doesn’t matter where it is in your body – no one is stressing real prevention – but you just did! The almighty dollar and the Rx lobbyists rule! I thought I knew quite a bit on this, but you have enlightened me further!

    I’ll be praying for your healing and recovery. Thank you so very much for sharing your story.

  7. Marguerite
    Posted October 20, 2010 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    What an incredible post! Thank you. These words should be written on every pink ribbon because this is the real meaning of awareness.

  8. Posted October 20, 2010 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    Excellent post…and like you said, the list goes on and on and on. It’s frightening once you become aware how many layers there are.

    I have 2 friends right now struggling through cancer but not wanting to wake up and head down the rabbit hole. I’m sending them this in your words, because they haven’t believed mine.

  9. Posted October 20, 2010 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    The best part of this post is the section after AND in caps in which Adrea addresses the issue of breast cancer being a big business. The plastering o a pink ribbon on everything and anything is not only absurd but dangerous for those who only know October as a feel good month. The reason there is no cure MAY be that the bc biz would suffer. Just a guess on my part.

    Mimi Dow (2 time survivor.)

  10. cwh
    Posted October 20, 2010 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    FABULOUS! Thanks for posting this. People need to read it.

  11. lovechild
    Posted October 21, 2010 at 4:40 am | Permalink

    Okay, so what do we DO? I am the sister of three who are cancer survivors (breast, thyroid, skin). Not sure all this hate-talk and vitriol do anything to help. Educate yourself, use your energy and passion to live well and take care of your body.

  12. Jane
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    To ‘lovechild’ — “lovechild”? Ms. Shanker’s post is not remotely “hate-talk” – she is stating facts — facts that far too many women have been too pinksided to realize. That keeps them – us – from doing such things as turning walks and runs into opportunities to protest the breast cancer industrial complex and demand accountability, to frequent contacting of legislators and corporations…

    What do we DO? We continue our attempts to discover just what money goes for – because it is almost impossible to find out — we take on local physicians and facilities and create independent review committees – and take the risk of publicizing inept treatment.

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