I got some great responses to the essay I wrote about my “celebrity breast cancer twin” Giuliana Rancic, the E news! cohost who announced last Monday that she was going to have to have a double mastectomy, thanks to the advanced nature of her cancer.
Like me, some readers identified wholeheartedly with the shock, devastation and grief that goes along with knowing you’re going to lose your girls. Others brought up some valid points, for instance, the dearth of good, hard information that accompanied the announcement re Rancic’s forthcoming double mastectomy.
“I don’t have any problem with celebrities discussing their cancer,” wrote Jody here on doublewhammied.com. “The problem is that many of them, including Giuliana, don’t offer the kind of detail that could go a long way toward honestly educating others about early breast cancer. It is not about cancer stage but tumor biology; or the pathology of the tumor. I think to go on TV the moment you’ve stumbled out of the surgeon’s office is a mistake. The morning television shows do little to elaborate.”
I, too, am curious about what type of breast cancer Rancic has (I haven’t been able to find out any information on that), but do know the double lumpectomies that she underwent in October weren’t able to gain clear margins, hence the decision to move forward with the double mastectomy.
Oddly enough, I got into a discussion regarding Rancic’s cancer with my breast cancer surgeon as she was removing my chemo port the other day (anything to keep my mind off the digging going on over on my right side). I wondered aloud if Rancic might have invasive lobular carcinoma (“my” cancer) because she had it in both breasts (ILC has a tendency to show up in tandem, aka, the old “double whammy”). My breast cancer surgeon wondered if it might be invasive ductal carcinoma since they initially tried to eradicate it with lumpectomies and radiation.
I guess that makes me an official breast cancer wonk. But I’m not alone.
Vanessa wrote to say she’s glad celebrities are coming forward about their breast cancer, but they’re not sharing enough. “I must admit I am a little upset that they aren’t talking about anything but the surgery,” she wrote. “What about the chemo and the radiation? … People need to understand that this is not a ‘take a pill and feel better in the morning’ type illness.”
And MaryBeth felt that Rancic’s “no big deal” attitude — not to mention her youth, beauty and privileged lifestyle — made it tough for the rest of us schmucks.
“It’s a total nightmare and underselling it like it’s some cool right of passage for the righteous, rich and beautiful does more harm than good for those of us everyday schlumps who have to schlep through it without the makeup artists, personal trainers, stylists, etc.,” she wrote.
As one of those everyday schlumps, I get what you’re saying, MaryBeth. But for me, the bottom line is Rancic – beautiful or not, rich or not, primped and pampered and styled to within an inch of her life or not — is still losing her breasts. She may have better doctors, plastic surgeons, health care, physical therapy, makeup artists, life partners, publicity, etc, but she’s still going to wake up with those horrible drains attached to a flat chest covered with bandages and bruises and not much else. She’s going to have a wonderful erogenous zone replaced by a useless Dead Zone. And if she is able to have a baby (I think this is still on the table), she certainly won’t be able to nurse it.
So yes, she may be better off than the rest of us. But in many ways — important ways — she’s in the exact same boat as all of us, crossing those same choppy, dark, terrifying seas.
Anyway, that’s my rant for the day. As always, thanks for reading and writing and best to you all, especially those newly diagnosed women I’ve talked to recently. You are strong and brave and beautiful and absolutely capable of getting through this breast cancer crap (and, believe me, it is crap, whether you’re a star or a starving freelance writer). I believe in you and am here for you whenever you need me.
Also, one brief, heartfelt note of thanks to Stephanie, a 30-year-old single mom diagnosed in October of last year, who wrote, “I just wanted to send you an email thanking you for your candid insight and sharing your experiences for the rest of us out here … I would like to consider you my twin and think we will win these battles together.”
Cheers to that, twin!