Thursday, May 3, 2012


If you happen to be one of the people who actually reads this blog and you know a bit about who I am,  I would imagine you might be scratching your head right now.  The other day, I had a post with a title about our "ability to prevent breast cancer."  Thankfully, there are a few people who do email me and that post has me a bit worried.  I hope anyone who saw that title and bypassed the post will go back and read it.

There is a line from a medical oncologist explaining what women might attempt to do to "prevent" breast cancer.  She wasn't being serious with her suggestions, she was trying to make a point.  The statements are so ludicrous, they made me laugh.  And breast cancer is not anything that I laugh about.  EVER.  But, it was a clever way to grab my attention.  I read the entire article.  It's logical.  

I do agree with her thoughts about primary care physicians being trained to identify "at risk women." I agree with her thoughts about having our primary care physicians (or our gynecologists) discuss the potential benefit of taking a drug like tamoxifen or an aromitase inhibitor if we are in an "at risk" category.  All people with high cholesterol are not sent to a cardiologist.  Ditto those patients with high blood pressure.  They are monitored and medications are prescribed, for the most part, by their primary care doctors.  Those who do not respond to medications are the ones who are referred for specialty care.  I might have benefitted from "preventative" tamoxifen.  I doubt I would have taken it, but it MAY have cut off the estrogen supply to the rogue cells and perhaps I might have been spared the cancer diagnosis.

That's the skinny on the post that insinuates "prevention" as a possibility.  A sound bite.  I'm becoming a sound biter.  And I'm using the buzz words that I've come to despise.  First "prevent" and now this???  AWARENESS????  Surely I've moved to the dark side.  Or should I say, the pink haze....  NAH.  This awareness has zero zip zilch to do with cancer or illness or really anything... this is a story of what the hell happened last night that made me miss my monthly Patient Volunteer meeting at MSK and it was a great meeting.  (I phoned in but it was NOT the same.......)

I had my swimming pool uncovered on Monday and as I was running out for yoga, the young man from the pool company was pulling up to vacuum the leaves now that the water was clear enough to see the bottom.  Today, they will throw salt into the water and for the rest of the summer, the pool basically takes care of itself.  It's NOT a salt water pool but we have this great salt filtration system.  It makes natural chlorine and I save a bundle on chemicals.

When I got back from yoga, I went to put my yoga mat into my "basement"  ....  It's only under half of the house and the basement is only half underground.  One of the windows is eye level with the ground and I have a great view of the pool from this window.  I walked over to the window to see what was going on with the water.  Frequently, the window is open. It was open yesterday afternoon as I was glancing at the pool.

Right beside that window are the meters for the electric and the gas along with the box for the phone line and the cable modem.  My nostrils were invaded with what I thought was a slight odor of gas.  I called my daughter and asked her if she could smell anything.  Initially she said she didn't smell anything and then she thought she did.  I went outside to the meter and again, it seemed like there was an odor.  I was outdoors so there was a small element of my logical brain in play........"Hey, jerk... you are in OPEN air where this stuff would be dissipating if it were nothing."

I HATE sounding the damn alarm and "I smell gas" is pretty high on the alarm scale.  It's an eleven.  Call the gas company? Or wait?  Or call?  Or check again in an hour?  In an hour?????  I grabbed the phone and called The Special Phone Number. There are no prompts to press one for this or two for that.  The phone is answered with the same swiftness as a 911 call. And they don't take kindly to people jamming that number with stupid questions like, "I have no hot water" or "why is there a service charge on my bill?"  The greeting, "What is your gas emergency?"  I don't have an emergency.... and I try to tell the girl I'm not sure if it's an emergency or not, but I THINK I may smell gas.

She asked me a couple of quick questions and as I was elaborating she was entering a mayday request.  "Stay on the line with me until I get a confirmation that they accepted the order."  Huh???  Who accepted WHAT order?????  It's a procedural thing.  No ball dropping when someone calls in and implies even the hint of a gas leak.  This shit is serious.  I hung up the phone and I said to my daughter, "Just watch this."  She was looking at me like I was nuts.  I told her to check the time because there would be someone at the door within minutes.  Turned out, twenty minutes to be exact.

I felt like a complete idiot when the guy got to the door.  I just shook my head and took him to the gas meter, told him I felt like a giant ass but I thought I could smell gas.  Ten minutes later, he was at my door again to inform me that YES, the valve was leaking and YES, there was a fairly significant leak and YES, he replaced that value and he needed to check all the pilot lights in the house.  Water heater, boiler, cooktop......

The fact that the meter was right outside my open window meant the gas would be leaking into the basement and once it reached a saturation point, one of those flames to the boiler or the hot water heater?  BOOM.  It coulda been a real issue. The key point here?  It's a damn good thing I am AWARE how dangerous a gas leak can be...... Because I'm pretty sure I would have been completely UNAWARE if  the house had blown to smithereens.  I would have just been collateral damage. Without ever even knowing what the hell happened.  Yes, Awareness.  Nothing is more important.     


  1. Wow, AnneMarie! Thank god for your nose! And your awareness and not just in gas leaks, but all things breast cancer. Safe travels tomorrow.

    1. Thanks, Stacey.

      I'm still shaking my head in disbelief over the whole thing. I still remember a home on Long Island that literally just "blew up" ...... I guess the chemobrain that kills that working memory of mine is a good thing. It allows me to recall the stuff from the past with far more clarity..... I could see the photo of the house in my mind's eye. Turn awareness into action... guess it trickles into all aspects of life when you come right down to it!

      Looking forward to the trip....and HAPPY B'day to you and Happy CELEBRATION OF MOTHERHOOD, too. xoxox

  2. The nose knows! Thanks for reminding us.

  3. Holy crap, AM!!! I'm glad that disaster was averted. Big hug!

    xoxo, Kathi

  4. AnneMarie,
    This morning I read an article about my sister - Heather Beyer - that you commented on. I just wanted to share the comment I left on the blog so you could get an accurate idea of who she really was and what she did with her life after being diagnosed with cancer.

    Bill & Gayle – If I could meet you in a coffee shop right now instead of through a blog, I would do so. I want you to see what this article did to me, face to face. How infuriating it was to read, as Heather’s sister! You dishonored her with your words. How inappropriate for you to use someone who genuinely was in charge of every decision made as your example for your own agenda. You know NOTHING of how my sister felt! And clearly, you also understand NOTHING of what she stood for! She spent the last years and months and even days of her life raising awareness for breast cancer in a way that was SO PERFECTLY HER. She was sunshine and sparkles. And that didn’t change because she was sick. Her spirit got even brighter as her body gave out. You turned that authentic portrayal of her into some media hype. As someone who sat next to her while she was receiving chemo, heard her deepest thoughts about dying, and saw her struggle to breathe as we said our goodbyes … I was forever impacted by Heather’s endurance and strength! She was a fighter, and every other cliche you could think of. The OC Register did an amazing job of accurately portraying her story. You could take a cue from them. They respected her as she invited them in. They journeyed with her, just like her family and friends did. They knew her, unlike you. And they were captivated by her joy in the face of death, as everyone who actually interacted with her was. THAT is why her story got told, for the glory of God. THAT is why her life was memorialized in such a positive, endearing way. How foolish of you to think that we didn’t grieve just the way you did. Or that we don’t to this day, shortly a year after her death. Her memorial was our time to remember her life. Her applaudable efforts with RelayForLife, and her team name, with stand untainted by criticism. As will her legacy. But I will remember what you did to my heart this morning with your presumptions. Next time, ask for an interview before you write an article. Do some research. Be more responsible with your words!!!

    Blessings on you and your family,


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