Pinktober Guest Post: Chris Welander

Pink-to-ber n A portmanteau coinage used by many people who live with breast cancer to refer to October, the Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is heavily dominated by marketing in the color pink and cute tags like “Save the tatas”. (See Komen, etc.)

During the month of October 2013, I am running guest posts from people with metastatic breast cancer (MBC) or who are closely involved with someone who has MBC. This was the idea of the wonderful Jody Schoger, and I think some other breast cancer bloggers are participating, too.

Chris Welander is our guest writer today. Chris is a minority within a minority: one of our youthful sisters-in-mets. Diagnosed ten years ago at only 37 years of age, Chris tells her story in a voice that is both strong and plaintive.

I was in shock.

I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003 at age 37. I hit it hard with a double mastectomy, oophorectomy and 10 weeks of chemo. I had a huge breast cancer team. Raised a lot of money for mammograms Went to support groups and really assumed I beat it. I didn’t worry. My iron will plus hard years of treatment was going to fix this.

When I found out two years ago that it had spread to my hip I was shocked. More treatment, lots of surgeries. I left work, lost touch with friends. Thank God for my metastatic support group but I was still young comparatively to many of the members. I felt freaky and lonely.

Last month my cancer spread to my liver after months of completely clean scans. More shock and boy do I feel gypped! I wanted to grow old with my partner. I want to contribute to society with my career and help my mom enter her twilight years. I want to see the pyramids, cook a hundred Italian recipes and read all my bedside books. Now I just make my friends and family sad. I talk to lawyers, doctors, financial planners and make THEM sad. I feel forgotten and still have to fight for care, for my rights and to be heard.

I think all discussion about breast cancer is better than the shame in the old days of not even saying the word “breast”. So I don’t have an issue with pink-azation. But I am invisible in the breast cancer community absolutely…mostly because women can be so stubborn. Like I didn’t work hard enough. Let me tell you I did. And being younger ironically works against my survival. You know what I need now? Money for a trip, cheaper prescriptions, people to say loving things to my partner instead of always asking how I am. And a resolution that agrees metastatic patients have been ignored and that more will be done to fund treatment for us and those after us.

Can it happen? Can we will that?