This entry was written by Randi Rentz. In this piece, Randi vividly describes the competition that lies between women who are diagnosed with various stages of breast cancer. Is there a need for competition in the first place? Is your breast cancer really worse than someone else’s – considering that breast cancer takes a toll on any woman emotional, whether you’re in stage 1 or stage 4.
Do you find yourself to be competitive in spirit, especially when it comes to sports, kids, education, social status or occupation? If so, you haven’t been in competitive company until you’ve participated in the game, “Breast Canceropoly.” What’s that you ask?
Wanna get your game on? Let’s see if you can pass “GO,” (Good Mammogram) “Collect Money” (Insurance Company pays for office visits/tests) or go to “Jail” (The dreaded treatment plan).
What You Need
- Breast cancer diagnosis
- Doctors telephone numbers on speed dial
- Binder for medical information
- Lucky dice
- Show no mercy
Please keep in mind when playing “Breast Canceropoly” only 4 choices are given on a game card, when in reality, there is a possibility of more or fewer choices with many variables. Here is an example of a “Pink Diagnosis” card.
- Stage 3 triple negative breast cancer that has no genetic component, mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation
- Stage 2 hormone-positive breast cancer as a result of hormone replacement therapy, lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation
- Stage 1 hormone-positive breast cancer with a BRCA1 gene mutation, lumpectomy/possible bi-lateral mastectomy, possible hysterectomy and possible radiation
- Stage 4 malignant melanoma with no insurance
Is your head spinning yet? Have you banked your money so you don’t go broke playing this game? Have you checked with your insurance company to make sure your office visit, scan or treatment plan is paid for (in-full, of course)? Have you gotten your second, third, fourth or even fifth opinion? If so, do you pay out of pocket, or are they covered? Do you even understand the question, after you’ve landed on the “You have breast cancer” square on the game board? Once you add more “pink cards” into the equation, like the effects of genetic mutations, hormone receptors, ports, meds etc., the game becomes even more multifaceted. Are you confused yet?
But for some who have been placed on the game board path, an individual’s diagnosis can actually begin a strange competition with many women.
“Breast Canceropoly” for some is a game of luck, strategy and people skills. How can your opponent get an appointment the next day after her diagnosis with a top surgeon while you wait weeks? Can it be she has connections or the luck of the dice? When some women are busy getting appointments with every doctor in town, others take to the internet, and may wait a few days before making any contact in the medical profession. Is that a strategic maneuver; to one-up the opponent? Maybe.
The people skills element needs to be captured in this game, too. For instance, I was very chatty with people in the radiation waiting room and wanted to measure up to my contemporaries, but deep down, I was quite bloodthirsty with all the other women who were waiting to be nuked. There was a woman who was on my radiation schedule who discussed her weekend hiking in the mountains in the Poconoes.
I found it a substantial achievement to get to my parking lot every morning. It was like walking three city blocks just to find my car. Once I found it, I climbed in and rested because I was so exhausted.
My “Breast Canceropoly” opponent wasn’t trying to engineer a trade or negotiate for a card on the board; she was trying to go for the win with her energetic attitude.
But then, it was my turn to roll the dice, and move on the game board, where I landed on the pink square of “Last Day of Radiation.” In general, patients who land on this square are ecstatic. I just wanted to win the game during my last treatment with my opponent and send her around the board a few times.
“I used to hike, ride my bike and run during the first three weeks of radiation. It felt so invigorating,” I said with a hint of rancor. “Just wait until you approach weeks four and five. You’ll notice a huge decrease in your stamina.” Little does she know that I know longer own a bike.
Bingo. She didn’t say a word after I out maneuvered her. Do not pass “Go” and do not collect $200! Was my competitiveness and mean-spirited comment worth it? Maybe for a split second.
The point of my scrutiny is this: The competition is meaningless. Cancer is cancer, and none of the types are preferable.
Those who play the game of “Breast Canceropoly” do so for one simple reason: to make themselves feel better. One of the ways we deal with fear of cancer is to tell ourselves that “it could be worse” or to reaffirm ourselves that we are the mighty fighters. And, sometimes, to reinforce that false declaration, we compare our situations to those we imagine are worse than ours, or vice-a-versa.
So, which type of cancer wins the game of “Breast Canceropoly?”
None of the above.
The truth is, we should all put the game of “Breast Canceropoly” away and choose a new board game, like, “Life.”
How do you feel when someone compares their breast cancer diagnosis? Do you have the “breast cancer is breast cancer” attitude or do you somehow believe that depending on stages, a diagnosis can have a bigger impact on different women?