Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Jane McGrath (Thanks, Magikquilter)

I just sighed with relief.

I am so tired of researching people who may or may not be terrorists. I know that's very callous of me.

I'm sorry.

I'm still reading Orpheus Lost by Janette Turner Hospital which deals with all the stuff I've been researching (terrorism, torture, wrongly accused, etc) It's somewhat eerie that I ended up reading that book at the same time I did research on Hicks and Habib. I put the books randomly on my shelf and then read them in the order from left to right . It just so happened that I ended up reading this book about terrorism just as I started doing research on terrorists. It's a beautiful and heartbreaking, book by the way. I highly recommend it.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure Jane McGrath was not a terrorist. Nor do I suspect that she was ever tortured by any military officials. From what I know of her though, it seems she was probably tortured in a way that too many women are tortured. Breast Cancer.

I don't think much about breast cancer. I should think about it more. I should pay attention. So, it's good that I'm doing this research today.

I'm an Ashkenazi Jew. Breast cancer tends to run in our genes. My grandfather had breast cancer. I'm not sure if that increases my chances of getting it or not.

I need to do more breast self-exams. I need to make sure I start getting mammograms when I'm forty. Maybe this research will give me the kick in the ass that I need.

I DID breastfeed Jack for a long time which is supposed to help lower the risk of breast cancer. I didn't breastfeed FOR this reason, but's nice to know I did SOMETHING good for my health.

Okay. Enough about me. It's time to talk about Jane McGrath.

McGrath was born on 4 May 1966.

Birthday website

She's a Taurus and a 4. I checked though with my own little calculator. She's not a 22. She's a 1+3=4.

She was born in England and was a flight attendant for Virgin Atlantic Airways. She met her cricketer husband in a Hong Kong nightclub. I guess that's one of the perks of being a flight attendant.  You get to travel a lot and meet interesting people.

McGrath married her husband in 1999 and became an Australian citizen on Australia Day in 2002.

She discovered she had breast cancer in 1997--before she got married. She was only 31.

Oh shit. Maybe studying terrorists was better than this. I'm starting to get a bit freaked out.

Anyway, McGrath had various fun treatments....mastectomy, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy. How the hell did she plan a wedding with all that going on?

In 1998, she got a clear bill of health. Well, that's good. She was cancer-free on her wedding...or so she thought.

She got a husband. She had two children. She breastfed them. I guess she had to feed them on one breast? Or maybe the mastectomy was done in a way that she could still breastfeed? Either way, I admire her for doing it. I can imagine it wasn't easy.

In 2003, McGrath had bone cancer. She recovered from that. Then in 2006 she had brain cancer. That was successfully removed.

In June 2008, she died. I'm guessing it was from breast cancer. Maybe?

I don't know. This woman had a lot of bad luck when it comes to cancer. I'm guessing that although it occurred in different parts of her body, the cancers were somehow related. It's not just some awful coincidence, right? Maybe it has something to do with her cells being faulty? Some kind of environmental issue?

In 2002 (while it was just breast cancer as her enemy)she started the McGrath Foundation. It's purpose was to raise more money for breast care nurses in rural Australia, and to educate oblivious women like me.

This cricked website has an obituary about McGrath. She died at home. I think that's good. I mean it would be better than dying in a hospital. Maybe? I don't know.

Her bereaved husband said, She would want them to draw strength from the fact that she didn't only 'survive' breast cancer for 11 years, but during that time she lived life to the fullest and found pleasure in the simple things so many people take for granted.

That's very beautiful.

To honor McGrath and her struggles, the Cricket team wore pink ribbons and had pink on their bats when they played against the West Indies.

I'm now going to look at the McGrath Foundation Website.

It says that Jane found it to be a huge help to have a breast care nurse. She didn't have one until 2003. I guess she got one when she was being treated for the bone cancer. Maybe they worried the breast cancer would come back. Or maybe it did come back. The issue is though she didn't have the breast care nurse in 1997 when she had the cancer and she found having one made her feel better.

She and her husband wrote a book for Random House. Originally, the idea was that they'd donate the proceeds to charity. But then they decided to start their own foundation.

Okay, this page has an explanation of what a breast care nurse does. They are are specially trained nurses who act as patient advocates, coordinating care for women with breast cancer, their families and carers.

This page talks about how to check your breasts. It tries to be reassuring. If you find a change in your breast go to your doctor, but don't worry. It will probably be nothing. And breast cancer has an 85% survival rate. Okay, but it's hard to feel reassured when the page has a photo of a beautiful smiling young woman who died of breast cancer. I'd have a lot more hope and peace of mind if she was still alive!

I am feeling my breasts right now. As far as I can tell they're okay. My baby toe seems to be the one with the problem. But still. My breasts are going to be getting a LOT more attention from me for now on.

Oh good. Here's even more information about the nurses. It costs $100,000 per year per nurse. Wow! Really? Is that how much money nurses get in Australia? This website says they get between $40-60 thousand. So, what is with the $100,000? Maybe some of the money goes to training? Or maybe breast nurses get more money?

Now I'm going to read the transcript of Andrew Denton's interview with Jane and her husband Glenn.

The Hong Kong bar they met at was called Joe Bananas. In the interview, Glenn talks about going back there. I wonder if they ever did. That would be very romantic. When I was a preschool teacher, there was a family that returned to their honeymoon destination every year. They took their two kids with them.

This is a fun interview. Jane and Glenn talk about how they first met. Jane says the thing she first noticed about her future husband was that he was tall. And he was the only guy who didn't say hello. She took that as a challenge. I'd probably do the same thing. Maybe. I'd probably go on and on in my head about how this guy is so rude, but then secretly have a crush on him.

It seems she didn't know/understand that Glenn was a big time cricket player. She was dating this guy and didn't know he was famous. People kept coming up to him and saying hello. She thought he was just very popular.

Okay. Now I'm at the part where she finds out she has cancer. She got out of the shower, was combing her hair, and noticed her left breast didn't look right. I usually comb my hair while I'm naked. Maybe I should make sure to look at my breasts while doing that.

McGrath says her breast looked flattened instead of curving underneath. I don't quite get that. She touched it though and it hurt. She thought the pain meant it couldn't be breast cancer. Cancer doesn't hurt. I would probably rationalize it away just like she did. She asked her husband what he thought and he said it looked okay. No worries.

But she did worry. She asked a nursing friend about it and the nursing friend said she had a lump. McGrath went to a doctor who also told her not to worry. But once he knew her family history of cancer (her mom had it) he decided to give her some further attention. She had a mammogram and a biopsy.

She had cancer.

I guess the lesson here is to get a second opinion--especially if the first opinion came from your husband.

I think the problem is most of us are so scared to be sick. So, when someone tells us we're fine, we WANT to believe them. Although, sometimes we also want someone to pay attention to our concerns and not so quickly dismiss them.

When I was in high school, the doctors found sugar in my urine. They set me up with an appointment to have the glucose tolerance test. I was terrified.   And in some ways, I think I felt ashamed. That sounds so stupid looking back as an adult. But I think in some ways, I felt I had done something wrong. It might have been the way the doctor told me...her tone of voice. You have sugar in your urine. It was almost accusatory, like they had found drugs.

Anyway, besides feeling shame, I also felt very scared and anxious. I tried talking to my parents and I remember them constantly reassuring me. I should say they TRIED to reassure me. I think their basic message was don't worry. You don't have it. I understand that they meant well. They wanted me to feel okay. They wanted me to not be scared. But I don't think that helped me. I think what I ended up feeling was very alone and very foolish. What I wanted and needed was someone to say Hey. You probably don't have Diabetes. But there's a chance you might have it and we understand why you're scared. It's okay to be afraid. Let's talk about this and figure out what we'll do if you actually have it.

I think we dismiss other people's health concerns because we're scared to face what's going on.

Once someone I know showed concern that their daughter might have leukemia. She had a few worrisome symptoms. The mother mentioned this to a doctor she knew. Did the doctor ask questions to further understand the mother's concerns? Nope. Did the doctor suggest the mother call the child's pediatrician? Nope. What did he do? He stated simply. She does not have Leukemia. Fortunately, she didn't have it. But how could he know that without giving her an examinati0n?

I think he just wanted to reassure the mother. Hey, don't worry. Your child is okay. I'm sure he meant no harm. But I think an attitude like that can cause harm. At the worst, a diagnosis might be missed. What if the child DID have Leukemia, but the child was never checked because this mother trusted this doctor too much? At the very least, I think it can make a person feel foolish. We shouldn't be made to feel foolish because we have concerns for our health or our children's health. Well, unless we're totally hypochondriacs. That's a WHOLE other story.

I am a hypocrite though, because the other day Jack threw up and Tim freaked out because he thought it was blood. I wasn't exactly understanding about his concerns. To me, the color wasn't alarming. I thought of blood in vomit as being black (or bright red). I should have explained this kindly to Tim. Instead, I think I kind of scoffed at his fears. Tim finally calmed down on his own though when he realized Jack had been eating a lot of red candies. Anyway. Sorry, Tim.

Okay. I'm going to continue with the interview.

She said she would have rather died than lost her breast. This makes sense for someone who doesn't have children yet. Once you have children, I think you'd be happy to give up your breasts, your hair, your eyeballs, vagina, a lung, kidney, etc. I think we'd give everything just to have more time with our children....well, unless we're suicidal. Then that's a whole other story.

McGrath did end up getting her breast removed and wasn't happy about it. She was ashamed for her husband to see it. But he did see it, and like a good boyfriend it mattered more to him that she was alive.

McGrath had a new breast built eventually, but she went five years without it. During that time, she had a prosthetic breast. It would fall out at times. Fun!

In the interview, Denton asks if Glenn did the typical male thing of complaining more than she did. She says yes. What is it with men? Am I being too sexist right now?

It seems the family was co-sleepers....or at least part time ones. Awesome. Denton seems to disapprove though. I think my opinion of him has lowered a few notches. Although he might have been joking, or I might be misunderstanding something.

Denton asks the McGraths if they talk about death. They say no. Jane says it's not an option for her. I don't think it's a good idea to dwell on death, but I also think it's wrong to completely deny it. If you have cancer, there is a chance you could die from it. It's as simple as that.

Death happens.

It's going to claim all of us at one time or another.

Yeah, so the McGrath's were right. Death is NOT an option. It's a requirement. It's just unfortunate when it happens too soon.

Anyway, that ended up being a rather rough topic too. Well, what can I say? We live in a tough world. Bad things happen sometimes. Sometimes, the only thing left to do is cry and hug each other.

I send virtual hugs out to all of you.

Note: I've been a bit scared and sad these past few days. Sometimes, we have those days where we realize that at any moment something bad can happen to us. I wondered how I could deal with such feelings without completely losing it. And then I remembered what my little spirit-guide fortune cards said two days in a row (while I was feeling bad). One of the cards said Enjoy Life. It's a simple message, but it makes perfect sense. Bad things do happen and they can jump into our life at anytime. But instead of worrying about that, we should just enjoy the times that are good.

As for New Years resolutions and plans. I'm not going to make any. Instead, I'm going to follow a quote from the movie Dan in Real Life:

Instead of telling our kids to plan ahead, we should tell them to plan to be surprised.

Some surprises will be good and some will be bad.

I hope all of you who are reading this have much more good surprises than bad.

I love you.