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    User: GregP_WN

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    I should also mention that I sell handmade lace (tatted) awareness ribbons (for any cause you like) and feet (for Relay or Making Strides), donating all proceeds to the American Cancer Society. If you're interested in my products, please contact Emily Jones at the ACS's Long Beach, California, office to get in touch with me.

    Also, during this past amazing summer of discovery and response, I wrote two songs for my surgeons, one for my son, and one for my gracious Lord about it all. My songs have been a blessing to numerous people with whom I've shared them in the past two months since I began writing and recording them.

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    Decision Point (To Give Up Healthy Body Parts or to Wait for Cancer to Invade Them?): This past May, during my law school final exams, a friend from my Messianic congregation sent me a rather lengthy cancer-related article from the Smithsonian (to explain why she had committed herself to donate $1 from the sale of each copy of her recently published book to the American Cancer Society). I came close to deleting it without reading it. I now praise God that I chose to read the article. The author explained that certain Jews (I'm Jewish) have a genetic mutation that predisposes them to contract breast cancer and/or ovarian cancer. As I read it, I got goose bumps; the profile closely fit my own medical history and that of my mother, of blessed memory. I wondered whether my being Jewish might be the reason why cancer seemed to run in my family. I immediately emailed the article to my oncologist of six years earlier, asking if I had ever been tested for the mutation and, if not, whether I should be tested. He responded by authorizing me to meet with a clinical geneticist. In preparation for the appointment, I received a medical history survey to fill out. I was certain that this was serious business when I saw a category among the choices for ethnicity that I had never encountered on any other such list: Ashkenazi Jewish! There are two ethnic categories of Jews, and this was mine! The geneticist determined that I was a good candidate for the blood test. He said that if I tested positive I should give serious consideration to proactively having my ovaries and my remaining breast removed before cancer had an opportunity to strike them. This was a shock; I had looked into the mutation only out of curiosity (and had been alerted to its existence only to help me understand my friend's decision to donate to the ACS and not because she thought I might have the mutation). I had the blood test done that day (May 25). I then tried to put it out of my mind for the four weeks that the geneticist had told me I would have to wait for the results. The two genes that were tested were BRCA 1 and BRCA 2. I don't know a lot of Hebrew, but it occurred to me that they almost perfectly spelled out “br’cha,” the word for “blessing!” Only later did I learn that “BRCA” stands for “breast cancer.” When I told my now unbelieving adult son that this mutation didn't seem like much of a blessing, he replied that the blessing was in finding out about the danger in time to address it. I'm usually the one to find the bright side of things that seem dark, but this time he hit the nail right on the head. Nevertheless, I couldn't help thinking of one of Tevye's charming lines in my favorite musical, Fiddler on the Roof: “[to God] I know, I know. We are Your chosen people. But, once in a while, can’t You choose someone else?” Since meeting with the geneticist, I have been on a personal campaign to inform Jews of the mutation and its effects. If you are Jewish, I urge you to look into this if there is any breast or ovarian cancer in your family—particularly early onset (before age forty-five). If you are not Jewish but know someone who is, please help me spread the word. I have since learned that the mutation also affects those of Dutch, Norwegian, and Icelandic ancestry. I also recently met a Hispanic woman who has it. I met again with the geneticist on June 8 and learned that I do have one of the three mutations at issue. Therefore, I waited until my summer class was finished and then gave up the body parts that had a high likelihood of becoming cancerous if given the opportunity. I accepted this without distress and did not cry at all. The relevant organs have fulfilled their purpose in my life, having produced and nourished a healthy, handsome, brilliant son. Having the surgery without first contracting cancer meant that I didn't have to go through chemotherapy, which I saw as a huge advantage. I also thus avoided having lymph node dissection, so my right arm is still available for blood tests, injections, and taking my blood pressure. I shall never have another mammogram. I realized only after the surgeries that I would never again have to endure pap smears. Besides, it's great to be (relatively) symmetrical again; having no breasts looks much better than having one. Now I can choose to have breasts of any size I like from day to day--or go around completely flat! The possibilities are endless. I've even considered star-shaped breasts because I'm a Take Charge of Your Health Cancer-Surviving Rock Star! I've also invented Booby Sox--a way to roll/fold socks to use them instead of those little pillows or prostheses. I had my two surgeries three weeks apart, the one in which my ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, and cervix were removed laparoscopically four days after I finished summer school, allowing two weeks after the second one (the mastectomy) before my fall semester of law school began. I've just completed the first two weeks of class and look forward to being fitted next week for my new bras and prostheses. God is so good--every time!

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    Drug or Chemo Therapy (Chemotherapy): This time, I was told, I really would lose all of my hair. So again I spent a lot of time choosing the wig that best resembled my own hair, which I had finally permitted to be its natural grey, and decided to donate my hair to Locks of Love. My hair was at that time (age fifty) the longest it had ever managed to grow in my life--about three inches below my waist in back. Just days before I went to a salon to make the donation, I decided to go public with it. I invited the local paper and all my local friends and relatives, and we met at the salon for my Shearing Party! I arrived with my wig and had everyone sign a guest list. An ex-boyfriend who had just bought a video camera interviewed my guests and then shot the shearing itself, along with the editor of the newspaper. Once my hair was gone, guests marveled at how good I looked without it, saying that I had a nicely-shaped head. Nevertheless, I had the beautician put my wig on me and arrange it, and the deed was done. Later that day I had my husband take my picture with my son, who had just come home from his first year of university. He wears his hair very short, so we were almost twins! He liked me without my hair, as I looked younger without the grey. Again the chemo didn't make me really sick. This time it was my husband who took me each time rather than different friends, and before long it was over again. One cannot have radiation in the same part of her body a second time, so this time when the chemo was over I was finished with my treatment. I had survived a second time!

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    Procedure or Surgery (Mastectomy): Just as with my lumpectomy, everything went better than one could have expected. I was back at work seven days after the surgery. I even discovered that my friend had been correct when she told me that she didn't feel lopsided; I had to stop and think about which breast was gone, as I really couldn't feel the difference! God really makes our bodies amazingly well!

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    Oh No (Diagnosed): About nine and a half years after that first diagnosis, I learned that I had cancer again in the same breast. I had just decided to go to law school and was beginning to study for the Law School Admission Test. The diagnosis didn't stop me; I figured that God had gotten me through one cancer adventure with flying colors and that He could get me through another one just as well. I continued studying--until my oncologist told me not to even think of taking the LSAT until at least six months post-chemo. He said that I would get "chemo brain" and be unable to think effectively. On his advice, I cancelled my registration for the test. Before I reached that six-month mark, however, I permitted friends and family to dissuade me from my plan to attend law school. This had nothing to do with cancer but rather was based on the purported cruelty of law professors, who tear students to shreds. I couldn't see myself enjoying that kind of treatment, so I gave up my plan.

    Oh, but back to the cancer. I thought that I would simply have another lumpectomy and get on with my life. Then I learned that this option wasn't open to me this time. I got a second opinion, which concurred with the first, and cried on the way back down in the elevator. That was it. By the time my husband (in that nine and a half years I had remarried--my boss, who had lost his wife to breast cancer!) and I reached the car, I had resigned myself to losing my entire breast this time and had stopped crying. The only other crying I did was the next night, when I thought about the fact that it was I and not my now eighteen-year-old son who had cancer. I couldn't imagine how I could survive his having cancer and cried tears of joy that it was I and not my baby who had been diagnosed.

    By the way, when my son was later admitted to law school during his last year as an undergrad, I visited the school he would be attending and sat in on three classes. I saw that the professors didn't mistreat the students after all but got to know them as individuals, listened respectfully to their points of view, and rewarded their efforts. I saw that a law school classroom was the most fun place to be, surrounded by bright young people discussing justice, and decided to enroll after all--but only if I could obtain a full scholarship. I managed to do just that and have just begun my final year of law school. My son became a successful lawyer last year and is enjoying helping people who experienced physical injuries. I hope to work against human trafficking.