Bad to the bone

She’s right around 40 years old.  KT is an accomplished scientist, skilled program manager, and warm human being.  And she’s absolutely beautiful.  We started working together last June on a high visibility project, and found lots of things in common.  The least of which was breast cancer. 

Hers was the bad kind.  An aggressive version hit her 14 years ago while she was in her late 20’s.  She stomped on it hard – with major surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.  Not an easy journey, but she put it behind her – continued to work throughout her treatment. 

i didn’t know her well then, but remember being blown away by the fact that she was there… doing her job while staring down the barrel of a loaded gun. i remember seeing her in the hallways, this beautiful young woman, bald as a cue ball, wearing fabulous outfits – with matching hats and headgear.

Last month she learned that it wasn’t a pinched nerve, or a torn rotator cuff in her shoulder causing numbness and pain.  “Lesions”.  That means “tumors”.  She told me in early December because there could be some impact to the program should she face something serious.  Optimistic for good news, but realistic enough to know what “lesions on the bone” meant.

As we started a meeting in late December – KT, me and another program manager – she provided an update.  That week – following more testing – she learned that her cancer has returned.  Here’s what she said:

“There’s good news and bad news.  The bad news is that my cancer is back.  The good news is that it’s only in my bones.  If it were in my organs, we’d be talking weeks.  Since it’s just in my bones, we’re talking years… It’s treatable, but not curable.”

From there?  Rational discussion of treatment plan, as well as her take on what it might mean for her part of the program.  She intends to work through, although she’ll be discussing some re-balancing of workload to remove the things that bring extra stress. 

After a brief discussion of how she’d like things handled with the rest of the team, we got down to the business at hand.  The meeting lasted about an hour, and she was actively engaged, and clearly tracking everything going on… Even some laughs.

To be in the presence of such a woman is truly humbling.  As with the BLT, you can learn so much about a person by how they deal with the nastiest shit that life hacks up.  The stuff that tests your soul.  You’re either living or you’re dying.  You have a choice.

She faced her own mortality 14 years ago, and was prepared to die.  In our prior conversation, when she learned of the “lesions”, she said “I know what my body can take.  I know much of what lies ahead.  I know that I can continue to work through chemo and radiation.” 

Now, ladies?  Get your fucking mammograms.  Cut out the excuses.  Yeah, it hurts.  Big deal.  i guarantee you it hurts a lot less than the gauntlet KT is now running.  Again…  So you’re afraid of knowing?  Get over yourself and do it for the people who love you.  No excuses.

21 thoughts on “Bad to the bone

  1. agree…humbled. my petty little issues are NOTHING compared to this. and as to your command to the ladies to get their mammograms? Gentlemen, get the ol’ butt poked and have the prostate checked.

    thank you, daisyfae, for resetting my registers.

  2. my aunt was not as lucky as your scientist associate…
    I only remember that she wanted nothing more then to live life as she had before. We baked, we shopped, we laughed…
    So, um, like, thanks for keeping things going.
    Excuse me, I have something in my eye.

  3. Wow, simply wow. When I read this I also thought of someone else I know giving her life everything she has. I can’t say I’m good friends with NC State Women’s basketball coach Kay Yow. But I do know her. Over the years we’ve talked a few times. Not sure she’d recognize my name; but, she has inspired me to be a better person many times. I get the idea your friend is doing much the same for you now.

    I’ll keep a good thought. Both for your friend KT and for Coach Yow.


  4. My sister is a five-year survivor of breast cancer. Her whole family shaved their heads in solidarity with her. The best Christmas card I ever got was one with a picture of all of them bald as cue balls. I still have it. And yes, my sensitive, cystic breasts get squeezed annually. The only reason I haven’t been taking part in a study of siblings of breast cancer survivors is that there was one qualification I lack. That has now been achieved, and if invited again, I will participate.

    I also echo what Gnu said, go get your butt poked. And Boys, don’t forget to squeeze your nuts monthly, too. Remember Lance Armstrong.

    And if you are over fifty, a colonoscopy is in order. One might have saved another internet friend a lot of trouble if she’d had it when she was having a little difficulty.Thus ends your Public Service Announcements.

  5. Sorry to hear about this daisyfae.

    Your friend reminds me of a woman I was acquainted with. She worked at my chiropractor’s office. I had no idea she was a breast cancer survivor.

    My next door neighbour was a co-worker of hers and, after my late wife was diagnosed with malignant melanoma, she shared a few of Suzanne’s stories with me.

    Suzanne had her initial bout with breast cancer at the age of 26. A mother of one at the time, she too went through the treatments.

    And continued to live and thrive.

    And every time there was a recurrence she’d go for more treatments.

    After my late wife’s treatments caused her hair to go thin, Suzanne helped her figure out the wig thing. Even gave her a couple. Again, I had no idea that Suzanne was wearing wigs. Turns out she was bald as a billiard ball.

    It got into her bones too. I remember seeing her at the Cross Cancer Institute one time. We were there for my late wife’s check up and Suzanne was just leaving. I’ve never known anyone so determined.

    Sadly, her fight ended in April of ’06. She was 42.

    Cancer just sucks.


    So, we’ve heard all about tits in a wringer, butt pokes, nut squeezing and colonoscopies. Let me just add that routine skin surveillance is important too. Especially if you’re fair skinned and/or have a lot of moles.

  6. I have Great Respect for KT and will be praying for her even though I don’t know her God does.I also have an insight as to what she is going through and what you are going through.I wrote a song for a friend and co worker called Friends Passing.Iwrote the song when i found out he had cancer November 2004 I wrote the song and gave him support until he passed December 2007.In the days near the end I read it to him and gave his wife a copy of the lyrics.He fought to the very end with great courage.I was proud to have been his friend.AJ

  7. gnu kid – it reset mine as well… so it’s cold outside? big damn deal…

    stephanie – sometimes early detection won’t help (as in KT’s case – she was too young for routine mammograms, and wasn’t really expecting it). but i admire your aunt for just getting busy with life…

    TAG – i’ve heard of Coach Yow and her battle – and yes, it’s inspirational. we’re all one phone call away from daytime nightmares, either for ourselves or someone we love. it’s what you do with it that matters….

    silverstar – butt poking, nut squeezing and boob smooshing. oh, we’re quite the sexy bunch today, aren’t we? 😉 But it’s important… thanks for piling on!

    rob – thanks for sharing that… the latest with KT is that we’re headed out west on a business trip in a couple weeks, but she’s been told she’s at risk for bone fractures, and can’t lift luggage. so we’re scheming and plotting travel logistics so the rest of us can port her bags… without making a big deal out of it. makes me just say “wow”…

    AJ – would like to hear that one sometime… she’s got a serenity and grace about her. not sure where it comes from, but suspect she wouldn’t mind a prayer or two!

    nursemyra – i’ve already told her of our adventures… will pass along the hug…

    alex – “finger in the bot bot”. nicer than “anal probe”…

    queen of clean – Welcome back to the park! Truly, it’s what you make of what you’ve been dealt that is the measure of your character… Me? i’d be curled up in a fuzzy ball, weepin’ and wailin’ my way to the end. i have tremendous admiration for those who stare it down without pandering and letting themselves be victimized…

  8. Eish, eish, eish. I have a very recent and very raw new respect for people who have to deal with this. I’m sorry my friend, for your friend, and for the shittiness of it all.

  9. I have this dream that someday instead of investing billions of dollars in missile defense systems and gagdets used to destroy humanity that we’ll pull our heads out of our collective ass and use that money to cure the things that kill the ones we love, the ones who influence and create for the greater good, it’s a dream i know but without those what else have do we have… keep on smiling KT, your attitude should be required reading for anyone with the unfortunate luck to hear a diagnosis like yours.

  10. what a heart felt story… I am saddenned and I’ve never met the lady. A friend of mine, Tellman Knudsen is doing a fundraiser for breast cancer. He asks for a dollar, then he matches it and one of his friends, shawn casey matches it…. that’s 3 bucks for every dollar. More efforts like this and hopefully we can put cancer out of our lives.
    peace, mTw

  11. I will be linking to this post very soon.
    I am fortunate enough to be married to woman that goes for a ‘breast crucifixion’ yearly.
    I mention it on my blog but maybe not enough.
    Good wake up call.
    Prayers and lit candles for KT
    Thanks for stopping by the blog.
    Miss talking to you.

  12. i wonder sometimes what it is that causes some people to fight so valiantly for this life.. i have never really had a special attachment to this world i guess… the thought of leaving it excites me,,, not that i am gonna pull another 5150 or anything lke that,,, but i am much more anxious to find out what if anything comes next than i am to get up and go to work while i am on chemo or whatever….

    i salute her bravery,, even if i have no clue what it is that drives her to be so brave……

  13. dolce – the challenge for me? living each day as if i have such a “sentence”… which i do… as we all do… it’s ugly. but making the most of your days regardless is the message to take away…

    kono – sometimes i wonder (on my darker days) if the pharmaceutical companies put more money into medicines that “keep people alive” (insulin) vs “cures”. there’s probably a better business case for the former… but yeah, we’ve made great progress, but there’s a long way to go…

    unbearable banishment – we all have shit piled upon us, sounds like you’re dealing with more than your fair share at the moment. ok to bitch… but it sure helps put things on the relative scale of “shittiness”…

    mike the waiter – welcome! these people always touch me deeply – not letting the disease victimize them, but moving on, making a difference and not wasting a breath. we all know someone, or know of someone, who is facing such a situation. what your friends are doing is beautiful! work for the cures, work for the treatments…

    michael – get the word out. it can’t hurt! i still read “smoke”, even when i don’t comment! having a blackberry with internet access helps me keep up on my reader file, although it doesn’t make it easy to comment (sure makes meetings go by more quickly, though!)

    paisley – can’t speak for anyone else, but i’m mostly curious… i just can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next, whether it’s in my life, the lives of friends and family, or with the rest of the world. i’ll get to the finish line someday – we all do – so i’m just not in a hurry. Hang in there – those pups are counting on you!

    nursemyra – guess we’ll all find out at some point. no hurry for me…

  14. it always stuns me that people can go back to work after getting such news. true courage, bravery, and determination to live normally. wow, what a woman.

  15. dave – yes. that’s the part that just knocks me down… i worked through my medical issues, taking only a few days off for two surgeries and radiation – BUT MINE WAS SO EASY compared to what these other folks deal with… it wasn’t bad. i’m astonished when i see this kind of strength… And by the way, you have perhaps the BEST blog photo ever since the beginning of all time… tickled to add you to my reader! got a thing for beagles, too!

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