Polly's pages (aka 'Donna Williams')

Ever the arty Autie

Statistically speaking – breast cancer and me


Whilst we all hear the rate of breast cancer is increasing and is one in 8 women, I was surprised to read this:

The risk ratio that we all hear about — that one in eight women get breast cancer — is for women over 90 years of age. The rate for women in their 50’s is more like one in 50.

According to cancer.gov
A woman’s chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer is:

from age 30 through age 39 . . . . . . 0.43 percent (often expressed as “1 in 233”)
from age 40 through age 49 . . . . . . 1.45 percent (often expressed as “1 in 69”)
from age 50 through age 59 . . . . . . 2.38 percent (often expressed as “1 in 42”)
from age 60 through age 69 . . . . . . 3.45 percent (often expressed as “1 in 29”)

So, statistically, at age 47 when dx’d with it, I had only a 1 in 70 chance of developing breast cancer.

Even after tumor removal I would still have a 50% chance of the start up cells returning to the original breast (my breast cancer was rare, only 5% of breast cancers start with comedocarcinomas, the rest are slow growing, low return rate, only 30% malignancy rate… comedocarcinomas are fast, high return rate and 100% malignancy rate).
ANSWER: 1st mastectomy

then based on a 20 factor analysis of my particular tumor, I had a 1 in 4 chance of stray cells spreading, causing secondaries and killing me in the next 10 yrs.
ANSWER: chemo

then chemo would reduce that chance to 1 in 10 chance of stray cells spreading, causing secondaries and killing me in the next 10 yrs.
ANSWER: chemo then 5 yrs of tomoxifen (my tumor was ER+)

then I had a 13-38% chance of the start up cells starting in the remaining breast – ANSWER: 2nd mastectomy

And what did I get for Christmas?
ANSWER: Melanoma

what a f&^%$#* year.

But do I feel cursed? No. I feel blessed, its a great life, and cancer is my teacher, challenging me to greater and greater positivity, appreciation, clarity and boundaries. Cancer is also an arsehole, I hate it. What I like about Taoist is I can have both sets of feelings and feel not just sane, but saner for it.

And I feel lucky. My breast cancer waited until my husband was 2 weeks out of hospital, safe and ready to go back to work then able to also care for me. Then my melanoma waited 7 days until chemo was out of the way so it wouldn’t overwhelm me whilst already dealing with breast cancer. And my breast cancer chemo gave me a bald head on which I could easily see the melanoma in the mirror which arrived just before I would grow my hair back in the next three months, lose it amidst new black chemo curl and probably leave it under there as it grew, metastasized and ultimately killed me. So I have the most polite of cancers, they queue nicely, take turns and arrive at a time where they are best able to be found and attended to. Who could ask for more.

UPDATE: results back today from the pathology lab… it was not a melanoma… it was a blue nevus (a blue mole)… apparently it had mutated from a normal mole, hence being largely black blue but also with red and why it looked like a melanoma. probably arrived as a result of drug related damage to the skin…. but its gone and all’s fab with the world 🙂

Donna Williams, BA Hons, Dip Ed.
Author, artist, singer-songwriter, screenwriter.
Autism consultant and public speaker.

I acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the Traditional Owners of this country throughout Australia, and their connection to land and community.

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