Wednesday, September 13, 2006

One of my favorite people died today.
The Texas Spitfire: Ann Richards.

She went from homemaker to governor. Ann raised four kids and was the first woman elected to state-wide office in Texas in fifty years. “I did not want my tombstone to read, ’She kept a really clean house.’ I think I’d like them to remember me by saying, ’She opened government to everyone.”’

So here's to a woman who stayed a woman. She used her wits and her charm; iron fist in a velvet glove. Ann Richards died from cancer today.

This time of year is an interesting one for me. Twice now it's been the season when my mom has been allowed to stop her radiation or chemo. Nine years ago the treatments for breast cancer worked. Her ovarian cancer has been clear for a year. One of the hardest things about the whole process is that she refused to tell people each time. She didn't want to be the woman with cancer. Make sure that if you ever meet her, you don't bring it up.

Last time was the worst, chemo is a low down dirty rotten thing--too bad it works. We didn't tell abuela, she wouldn't be able to handle it. One morning, abuela looked at my mom and said, "You have no eyelashes." "Yeah," said my mom. "Huh. I told you to stop wearing so much eye makeup. I told you your eyelashed would fall out." "You were right."

She loved an excuse to wear wigs. She loved that her hair grew back in curly even more.

In honor of the survivors, and for those who have lost their fights, here are a couple things you can do to decrease your risk of breast and ovarian cancers:

Miso Soup

It's tasty, you love it, it prevents cancer. Drink up!

The Pill:

Even if you don't need them, using them can help reduce your risk of ovarian cancer. Consider going on the pill just because especially if you have a family history. Don't sweat the pill too much because you could just...

Get Knocked Up:

Pregnancy reduces your risk of breast and ovarian cancers.

Nurse a baby:

The longer you nurse, and the more kids you nurse, the lower your risk of both breast and ovarian cancer.

Not Smoking

Thought I'd throw that in there since it's an easy one.

Breast cancer is a killer, but I feel like we are more informed as to the precautionary measure that women can take (mammograms, self-exams, etc.) Ovarian cancer came the closest to killing my mom because the symptoms are so vague. At first she thought it was just gastro-intestinal issues. If she avoided chocolate, or refined flours it would get better. She tried a macrobiotic diet when some osteopath told her she was suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Then it was possibly fibromyalgia. She tried everything. One day the pain was unbearable and she went to the hospital writhing in pain. After hours of tests, nothing. They decided to do an exploratory surgery. That's when they found the tumor and diagnosed her with stage 3 ovarian cancer (4 is lethal.) 5% chance of making it to five years. IF they could do another operation and IF they could remove the tumor and IF the cancer had not metastasized and IF the chemo worked she was looking at an 80% of making it to five years.
She told the Dr that 80% was just "NOT GOOD ENOUGH."
Well, if anyone was going to fight this, she was. She showed that cancer who's the boss (not cancer.)

I literally thank God that all those "ifs" worked. She's one year in the clear.

So, have some miso and take a pill, don't let it happen to you.


tiff-fay-fay said...

I know you enlight me, but I think I might be depressed now. I can't stand Miso Soup, and we all know I am a pill-diot. Cross your fingers my two babies and two years of sore boobs was worth it.

Your most unenlightened patron.

Azúcar said...

You don't smoke!

(and it was worth it.)

Geo said...

What a good post. Im glad your mom is still here, beating the numbers.

(Love your abuela's chastisements about makeup!)

BowlerGirl said...

Love you Carina. I was thinking of posting on the same thing but you beat me to it. And definately did a better job than I ever could.

metamorphose said...

Wonderful post. I'm also glad that your mom was able to show cancer who's boss.

Sarah said...

Thanks for this post - I'm a native Texan and am sad to hear that she's passed. What an amazing lady! Too bad she never ran for president. Breat cancer is so scary because they say that 4 out of 5 people who get it have no genetic history of it. It doesn't help to have clean genes! I'll enjoy the miso soup - thanks for the tip!

La Yen said...

I loves me the Ann Richards. She was the one who made the line "Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels." the big thing. She also said (about George Bush Sr.) "You can't blame Georgie--he was born with a silver foot in his mouth." She is one of the reasons that I love Texas. Kinky Friedman and Grandma Strayhorne are trying to cash in on the Governor Richards "spitfire" image, but just don't understand that you can't fake being that sincere, smart, and strong.

I was on the pill for a year or two. And when I was 8 and my mom had my sister, I pretended to nurse my cabbage patch doll. And I don't smoke, and I loves me the soy. (But I do mainline heroin and eat food out of the hand of a hobo, so maybe I am not safe...)

Azúcar said...

Good news! No studies have linked heroin useage and cancer, so I say shoot up and live large! I do believe that YOU, la yen, were the first person to ever feed me Miso (so you get extra cancer reduction points from ME.)

It's true, Sarah, we don't have the breast cancer markers. Which is a relief, I guess. Means we probably won't be engaging in any preventative mastectomies...

Meta - yeah, my mom is a little scary...just ask, oh, anyone.

Geo- all that occupies my thoughts lately was that seaweed salad you ordered at Yamato oh so many months ago. Seaweed has also been proven to fight cancer and lowering your risk as well.
We should meet for lunch!

Azúcar said...

p.s. I forgot to say something in the post re: Ovarian cancer. If you are experiencing the writhing pain that sent my mom to the hospital that is a BAD thing. Externalized pain like that is an indication of an advanced stage of the cancer. Better to get checked out earlier and demand more from your doctors.

The worst part of this whole thing is that mom had been trying for a few years to get her GYN to do a hysterectomy. The Gyn refused saying that it wasn't necessary or indicated by her history. (We do know that mom's grandmother had died of some type of cancer that appeared in the abdominal area, and we knew that her aunt had either died of breast or also a cancer some place in her center, but because the records and the medicine weren't that great in the 'old country' we were not sure of an exact diagnosis that would translate to our personal histories.) Given our relatively vague history, it's not surprising the Gyn refused.

Even though she felt strongly that she needed to have a hysterectomy, the continual refusal of her Gyn put her off. Mom was SO ANGRY with the diagnosis considering it could have been prevented.

I talked to my gyn about it and he said the they are criticized for doing too many and criticized for not doing enough.

I don't know what the answers are, but I do know that she knew for a long time that something was wrong and even asked for an action that would have solved the problem. We all need to be better advocates of our bodies.

reva said...

wonderful post!! I love miso soup and I feel all sorts of happy for having it this week. And bout that pill thing - do you think being on the patch does the same thing? I'm knocked up, so that's another check in my plus box:)

Queen Scarlett said...

Seaweed is also great for your hair. My parents raised us on that stuff.

Tried the pill when I first got married - I was a holy terror of moodiness.

By the way - loved hearing about how strong and fiesty your Mom is. Congrats to her and many more years. I see where you get it from. Always love stories about your Abuela.

sue said...

Ann Richards is the reason I became interested in politics. As a young(er) girl, watching the democratic convention and hearing her speak, I was enthralled. She was one great lady.
Glad to hear about your Mom's triumph.

Things I love (or have loved):
Miso Soup
Being pregnant
Not smoking
Strong political women
and women who have overcome cancer (and many, many who unfortunately have not).
Great blog!

Azúcar said...

Yes! Patch, pill, however you get the hormones should lower your risk of ovarian cancer.

QS- you needed a different pill! This is a problem lots of girls faced, including myself. At one point I was so depressed, such a complete wreck, I thought I needed prozac and a therapist. As soon as I stopped that pill the symptoms went away. The Dr switched me to a lower dose estrogen higher progesterone and it worked, I felt like myself. DO NOT under any circumstances take Depo Provera. That horror tale is a story for another time.

Sue, you're awesome.

Julie said...

Miso soup from Yamato's is the BEST! I'll meet you there for lunch ANY TIME, I'm tellin' you. I'm gettin' me the miso soup and the Oremu Lunchu, as my hubby pronounces it.

Geo said...

I smoked almost a whole pack of clove cigarettes when I was really young and stupid. Should have tried seaweed instead--might have saved me a few cancer points.

So far, the only thing in my favor is Yamato, so yeah, you could say the girls and I are up for lunch!

Geo said...

I know it's not good manners to say so, but my verification word on the last comment was "cystpype". A little unnerving!

Azúcar said...

More points for Geo since I know you are a regular walker and THAT also lowers your risk.

nie nie said...

i disagree with you and the birth control pills. you think taking them will reduce your risks of cancer? they do way more damage than good.

Azúcar said...

It actually depends on the cancer: for ovarian and endometrial the pill decreases your risk; breast cancer it may increase your risk.

You'd have to look at a family history and decide which cancers you are most likely to develope to then decide if taking hormone pills would be beneficial or raise your risk. Then again, as with anything that you take into your body, there are risks.