Hello, everyone. I hope you are staying healthy and safe. We have a way to go before we can return to some semblance of “normal.” If everyone follows the CDC guidelines, we will get there! Talk with your oncologist about which vaccination to receive and when, especially for those who are still receiving cancer treatment. And remind everyone who loves you to get vaccinated, too, for you!
Let me tell you about some of the articles in this issue. Nearly everyone is concerned about climate change. But did you know there is a link between climate change and skin cancer? We will be seeing more people diagnosed with skin cancer, including melanoma, which is the deadly form of skin cancer. Starting now, routinely apply sunblock before going out, even if you are going outside to get into your car and drive away. You still are getting sun exposure while driving or riding in a vehicle. Protect children and teens, too. We really want them to avoid sunburns, which increases their risk of future skin cancer.
The Ulman Foundation is an advocacy organization for young adults dealing with cancer. Their article explains the importance of fertility preservation for girls/young women and boys/young men. Cancer treatments, though needed to fight cancer, can do harm to the reproductive system. And because insurance companies usually only pay for infertility treatments, they don’t comprehend the need to pay for an alternative method of conception when cancer treatment is robbing the body of the ability to conceive naturally.
Patients with breast cancer today are increasingly making interesting decisions about their surgical options. We continue to see a trend of women opting for mastectomy surgery rather than lumpectomy when both are viable options. We also, however, are seeing more women choosing not to pursue breast reconstruction. This is truly a personal decision. And reconstruction can be done at any point as long as the patient is healthy. Women are embracing going flat, as one patient describes it as “self-acceptance,” and some are finding their sense of humor by making this choice. Let’s be clear—no woman should ever be defined by whether she does have breasts. To quote my husband, “When you look down, don’t see that the breasts are gone, see that the cancer is gone.” Smart man!
The past year has been a nightmare for many. I have lost friends and coworkers to COVID-19 and seen many others struggle with it, spending weeks or months in the hospital. Add to that a diagnosis of cancer, and those individuals’ worlds are suddenly even more complicated. Some cancer survivors lost their loved ones to COVID-19 and also ended up being diagnosed with cancer and had to deal with mourning the loss of a family member while coping with the shock of a cancer diagnosis.
We all know from experience, however, that cancer doesn’t care what else is going on in our world. It will show up and create havoc whenever it feels like. I hope that those who have had to experience both this past year can look backward at some point in the future and identify a few things to still be grateful for: that they themselves are now survivors. That they had more strength than perhaps they realized they had. That family members and friends came forth and supported them. And, whoever they have lost to the pandemic is watching over them from above.
Stay well. Enjoy spring. Wear a mask. Get vaccinated. We are all in this together.