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Monday, December 22, 2014

Faces of Breast Cancer Musa Mayer. Part 2

Posted by William on January 26, 2012

 A Complex Disease
“Another message we keep getting from the media is that if you find it early there is 97 percent survival rate. That message is intended not to frighten women. But the reality is that breast cancer is far more complex than that,” Mayer emphasized.

A small tumor, for example, might be composed of aggressive cells, some of which may have strayed to distant sites by the time the tumor is found. Mindful of this possibility, she believes that it is important for women to try to grasp the dynamics of breast cancer.

Mayer, who recently won an advocacy award from the National Breast Cancer Coalition, distilled many of her thoughts on breast cancer, its diagnosis, treatment and recurrence, in two books. The first was “Examining Myself: One Woman’s Story of Breast Cancer Treatment and Recovery,” (Faber & Faber, 1993).

The second book examines the rarely discussed reality of metastatic breast cancer. In that book, “Advanced Breast Cancer, A Guide to Living With Metastatic Disease,” (O’Reilly, 1998), Mayer interviewed 35 breast cancer patients. Sadly, all of these patients had completed breast cancer therapy only to learn — often many years later — that the disease had returned. Mayer corresponded with many of these women through the Breast Cancer Listserv. Via the Internet, she met hundreds of “patients, family members and friends, researchers, nurses, doctors,” all focused on breast cancer and its treatment.

In the 11 years since her diagnosis, Mayer has never experienced a recurrence of her cancer, but she said the potential for recurrence is a cloud that hangs heavily over the heads of any one ever treated for breast cancer. Metastatic disease, Mayer says, needs a larger forum in today’s discussions about the disease.

Action Vs. Awareness
“It is not a pink ribbon disease,” she said of the generally positive message painted in the media about breast cancer and its prognosis. “The most honest use of the pink ribbon is the one in Ottawa. The ribbon is in the shape of a tear drop and the inside of the ribbon is lined in black.”

“Dealing as I do with this forgotten population, women and some men who are coping with advanced breast cancer, I have discovered that these are the people everyone is afraid to hear from,” she said.

Mayer started her career as a therapist and worked for many years as a Master’s level counselor in the Ohio Community Mental Health system, with a particular focus on women’s issues. But her enthusiasm for writing led her to complete a Masters of Fine Arts degree in writing at Columbia University in New York.

She regularly teaches memoir writing, and leads writing workshops and retreats for people with life-threatening illnesses.

“My focus has been on helping women once they receive a diagnosis, I believe I am helping them think about their treatment decisions and to think about that in a rational way,” she said.

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