Unless you live under a rock, or outside the US, you probably know that since it’s October, it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  The world resembles a sea of Pepto Bismol, with sparkly, shiny things, dancing pink bows, cheery sayings and smiling victors over breast cancer by virtue of early detection.

Don’t get me wrong – as a person who’s been diagnosed with and treated for breast cancer, I’m glad we’re aware of it. But awareness does not go far enough. There’s a lot more to the story. We don’t talk about the (pink) elephant in the room – metastatic disease. And until we can prevent and/or treat metastatic breast cancer, it will continue to kill.  We have to talk about it; we have to face the reality of it; we have to insist that research be directed toward metastatic disease.  And, we have to do what we can to support women (and men) with metastatic disease and stop treating these people as “treatment failures”, or pariahs.

I’m not just a person who’s been treated for breast cancer – my mother died of metastatic disease almost twenty two years ago, in January, 1991.

Twenty-two  years ago, my mother was anticipating her 65th birthday, and we were holding our breath, hoping against hope that her metastatic breast cancer would just slow down. But it was like wild fire – down one side of her spine and up the other, lots of pain. Finally, she was having trouble walking, and a scan revealed brain mets. Some rads and physical therapy helped for a while, but those damn mets continued on their relentless course. My mother turned 65 on October 25, 1990. She wouldn’t live another three months. They sucked the movement out of her body, she became unable to walk. Her motor skills went, as did her speech. She had tumors pressing on her spine, and in her brain. I can’t imagine what it was like for her. It was horrible for us. It was cruel. Death came as a relief in some sense…but it’s never really a complete relief – you always wish there was something more you can do – something different, if only there had been more time.

I suppose that every death leaves many things unfinished. Metastatic breast cancer – like many other chronic, debilitating, terminal diseases – is such a thief. It robs people of themselves, families of loved ones, time, energy, resources. Because we don’t really understand the why, we cast about for justifications to explain what happened. We blame irrationally and without sufficient evidence. But there is no rest – and there won’t be till there is more information. More research.  We must focus our efforts.

I’m going to snark about Pinktober regularly this month. But I wanted to write a little about the cost of metastatic disease from a personal perspective.  And I know it’s not just breast cancer – there are lots of thieves – I guess life is a little like avoiding robbery  from the universe.

A good way to start the month. Pass the Pepto, please!