Breast cancer is a many-splendored thing – there's the genuine look of kind pity on the face of the poor doctor who had to tell you the diagnosis; the swell white-bread-and-cheese sandwiches and free banana pudding in the chemo room; the music while undergoing radiation; the gentle hand pats; the visits from the grief counselor; and the nurses who look truly excited to see you when you show up – kind of like good maitre d's. Unfortunately, the music while I was undergoing radiation reminded me of the movie "Apocalypse Now."
Cancer is not contagious; it only seemed that way when I started to recover from my breast cancer surgery, chemo and radiation therapy. Whenever I heard that someone had died, I would say, "Cancer, right?" and nine times out of ten, I was right. I'd just nod, all smug and everything.
Then I would start ghoulishly toting them up: my grandfather died of cancer, my dad died of cancer, my high school boyfriend, my great-grandmother on my mother's side, Elizabeth Edwards, Frank Zappa, Ty Cobb. I seemed to have drawn a blank when it came to people who survived it.
To your left is a picture of a white blood cell. You have about a zillion of these in your body: T-cells, B-cells, granulocytes, monocytes, macrophages, helper cells, dendritic cells, neurophils, basophils. I could go on. They are all part of our body's complicated, well-organized immune system.
These cells blast around in your body like police on their beats identifying and neutralizing antigens, that is, bacteria and toxins and other microscopic things that don't belong. They do this all the time, 24/7. But this is about dendritic cells.
One would think that when a woman with breast cancer walks out of the hospital after her last radiation treatment and chemo is behind her, she would sail back into real life with both breasts (the old ones redux or some nice new reconstructed ones), admirable moxie, and unshakable spirituality.
I crept back, looking over my shoulder for the guy with the scythe and the creepy robe.
I DON'T MEAN TO BE PICKY
I know it's all about words, but I am an English teacher. I'm a little anal about words.