The Pink Month - Ellen's Tastes Blog at - 256056

Ellen's Tastes

The Pink Month 
Nov. 6, 2011 1:58 pm 
Updated: Nov. 8, 2011 5:14 pm
October is a tricky month for me. It's "Breast Cancer Awareness" month and has been for a long time. In fact, there's been a pink October every year of my life since my first diagnosis in October of 2000. I participated in my first breast cancer walk that year — just days before I learned I had breast cancer too. 

October is when those of us who've had breast cancer, and who then show up at walks and other fundraisers, are given ribbons and trinkets stamped or printed with the word "Survivor". I know the intent is loving and kind. I know for some it keeps memories alive of those who've died. It's a way to heal the loss of a friend, a parent, a child, a sibling, a spouse. There's community surrounding breast cancer, bringing us together every October, pink ribbons and all. So there's an upside to October.

For me, though, the focus on breast cancer awareness is steeped in a hope that's based on the false idea that we're getting closer to a cure. That's not really the case. The bulk of the money goes to studies of new treatments: chemotherapy cocktails, hormone supplements, and other means of addressing the disease after you've gotten it. Very little time is spent on studying how to prevent getting it in the first place, or how to cure it for good.

There's nothing wrong with spending money on treating breast cancer. But it doesn't hurt to remember that — despite the walks — one in three women (33%) die of the disease, and that percentage hasn't changed in over 40 years.

Here's some other bits that aren't in the pink handouts: 

- Chemotherapy will increase the 5-year disease-free survival rate of an 80 year old woman by about 1%. For a 62 year old woman like me it's about 4%. 

- Without doing anything, there's an 80% chance that the 80 year old and the 62 year old won't get breast cancer again no matter what you do. 

- Chemotherapy and hormone treatments lose their efficacy after about 5 years... meaning that the 6th year can be full of havoc.

- The side effects of breast cancer treatments are often so toxic that some women never overcome them.

Please don't get me wrong: there are many MANY patients who've lived long lives thanks to chemotherapy and/or radiation and/or hormone treatments, and hats off to each and every one of them. But facts are facts: the progress that's been made has been in detecting the disease early and then treating women as aggressively as possible knowing there's no cure. In so doing, treating breast cancer has become a lucrative business. That part of things really bothers me. There are entire companies who'd go out of business if a cure was found. So how inclined are they to look for one?

It probably goes without saying that I don't wear pink ribbons, or pink wrist bands, or otherwise promote my "survivorship" with anything pink. I'm also not the kind of patient who follows doctor's orders without looking into them myself. Which is how I arrived at my decision to use diet, and not drugs, to deal with my third breast cancer. 

By the way, in my world we're all survivors. If you're reading this, it means you didn't get hit by an 18-wheeler or choke to death on a sandwich today. You, too, are a survivor. The difference between my survivorship and yours might only be that I've come closer to knowing my mortality than you've had to come. For me, that's an advantage: I'm more aware of the moments (and thus, quality) of my days... a truly unexpected blessing.

Now that November's come 'round again, and I'm not in any pink spotlights, life is back to my new normal: juicing, fruits, veggies, legumes, nuts, and seeds. These are my food groups now, reigned in from the days when I'd frolic with chicken, beef, seafood, pasta, and the wonderful ingredients I came to know from the inside out. As mentioned in an earlier blog, I'm at a new starting point, still trying combinations of flavors drawn from a smaller palette. So far, other than some great input from readers, I haven't found one recipe on this site that fits my eating regimen. And yet, here I am, still blogging in this space. Go figure. 

To Rosebud: I didn't even eat ONE piece of the large basket of candy we passed out on Halloween (we live in a "destination neighborhood" which is great fun for costume watching but taxing on the candy budget). This year, though, I felt guilty when I handed young girls a Kit-Kat or a Hershey's Kiss: it's this kind of eating, in too much quantity, that can set her up for developing breast cancer later in life. Here's hoping her mother knows that — or will learn it soon — so she can make sure her daughter eats well during the rest of the year. 

Nov. 6, 2011 4:00 pm
It's true that a huge pile of money is being spent on early detection and aggressive treatment but it is also true that huge piles of money are being spent to find a cure for all cancers with particular attention to breast cancer because of it's prominance. Nobody has claimed to be close to a cure although there have been many media hypes about breakthroughs in research that seem to indicate a cure is near. I had the choice between agressive treatment to increase a lifespan (that would have been ended by now), or to refuse treatment. Had I not chosen the treatment- guaranteed dead. Ellen, I admire your determination to beat this malady your way but are you sure it better than the previous treatments you have experienced? I know the diet you have chosen is a great help in the prevention of the recurrance of cancer, but how do you know it is a valuable treatment once the cancer has manifested itself? Nearly all companies producing equipment and medicines are not locked in to cancer. They are far too smart to be manufacturing only one or two product lines. There are many uses for imaging equipment besides just cancer and chemo drugs would be written off gladly because of the liabilities and extreme regulations regarding their use. I would not deny that that the prices paid for treatments are atrocious but much of that can be attributed to likelihoods of litigation and uninsured patients. Yes, I am a survivor of that semi truck, but it was because I applied the brakes to let it pass. I am also a survivor for seeking treatment for my cancer. I have participated in pink events in October. I also participate in purple events in July. I am proud of my participation for much the same reasons that you dislike them. Just different points of view.
Nov. 6, 2011 4:56 pm
Ellen & Mike - - I applaud you both for your bravery. It takes a lot of courage to fight the fight. I will pray for both of you. Thank you both for sharing your insight.
Nov. 8, 2011 2:27 pm
Mike, I'm so happy your treatment worked so well for you. My decision to approach my treatment (this third time) is based on my history, and other information that would be specific to me rather than anyone else. I apologize if anything I wrote offended you. I tried to be fair to both views.
Nov. 8, 2011 5:14 pm
No offense, Ellen. No way. I admire your courage to face this your own way. I wanted to state my own approach because I wholly support the ACS and my local cancer center. Your approach worried me that somebody without knowledge would try your approach without adequate research.
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About Me
I've loved cooking since I was a kid, and still have my first (very battered) cookbook. Other than cooking, I adore interior design, writing, and playing bridge. Oh... and tasting new wines (or old favorites).
My favorite things to cook
As I've grown older, my tastes and philosophy have changed. I now use organic ingredients whenever I can, and I prefer using unprocessed ingredients.
My favorite family cooking traditions
Well, my mother (bless her) had 8 people to feed, so she made foods that were easy to prepare. My favorites were her baked ribs with barbecue sauce; english muffins topped with cheese, tomato, and bacon, and then broiled; and spaghetti noodles with tomato soup and cheddar cheese stirred in. I wouldn't make these dishes today, but they're full of fond memories.
My cooking triumphs
Adding orange juice to diced tomato sauce • Adding Cointreau to fresh fruit salads or a chocolate sauce • Adding tequila and bittersweet chocolate to chili • "poaching" salmon in orange juice, sprinkled with Old Bay and tarragon • adding cidar vinegar and soy sauce to vegetable soups • adding fresh mint to steamed red potatoes • knowing how to bail out a botched dish (example: over-steamed broccoli mashed with bleu or swiss cheese isn't nearly as bad as over-steamed broccoli on it's own).
My cooking tragedies
Over-steaming broccoli and most any other veggie... and a lasagna that was so loaded with oregano, no one could eat it.
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