Sunday, August 28, 2016


By Laura Yeager

My friend, Elaine, introduces me like this:  “This is Laurie.  She had cancer.  But she got over it.”

I have to say this is a little annoying.  To be identified as my illness.

On the other hand, there is a status that comes with surviving cancer.

People tell me “You’re a fighter” and “You’re tough.”

These things really aren’t true.  I’m simply someone who went along with the program and did what my doctors told me to do. Maybe I’m someone who got lucky.  Someone whose time hasn’t come yet.  Who knows?

On the other hand, I had whole churches praying for me.  Prayer factored into my survival.  All those heartfelt wishes, that good energy, that power directed to the deity can do wonders.

In any case, I’m here, walking the earth.  Dealing with problems.  Our new puppy has ringworm.  My child can't seem to work well with his aids at school.

On August 23, my husband and I celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary.  I’m so happy I lived to see it.

I’ve had cancer twice.

My friend, Sarah, from kindergarten has had cancer three times.

We’ve both survived our maladies.

I love Sarah.  She knows what cancer is all about.  Unlike Elaine.  Elaine is simply standing on the outside looking in.

We do the best we can.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Power Couple

By Laura Yeager

My husband Steve and I are at a benefit to raise money for autism.  We have an autistic son.  We are sitting at a table, minding our own business when the organizer of the benefit approaches us.

“There they are,” she says.  “The power couple.”

I almost choke on a piece of broccoli and ranch dip.

No one has ever referred to us as a power couple.  And I certainly don’t see us as one.  We don’t have money or a big house or prestigious jobs.  Neither of us hold a political office.   We are just Steve and Laura.  Trying to get through the day.

Furthermore, two bouts of cancer have certainly taken any residual power I might possess.  I am a sick woman.  Sick people aren’t powerful.

Power is the last thing I feel.

Is she joking?  Simply flattering us?  Stroking us so that we will donate more money to her cause?  How can we be a power couple?

But we go with it.  We don’t contradict her.  In fact, we like what she said.  We like the label.

Maybe illness does give you a form of power.  If you can overcome it.

After my latest cancer surgery on June 10, 2016, my wounds on my chest got infected.  I lay in bed with pus coming out of the incisions.  They were giving me morphine for the pain.  The nurses couldn’t get the IV in because the chemotherapy I had five years ago had “ruined my veins.”  I was crying.  I was hungry.  They had ordered a lunch for me, but it had been two and a half hours since it had been called for, and I was starving.  Thirsty.

Not the picture of power.

But as I sit here tonight at the autism benefit, in my little black dress, with my good gold jewelry and my recently styled and colored hair, I can fake it.

Jesus says, “The last shall be first, and the first shall be last.”

Maybe this is what is going on.

Actually, now that I think about it, I know what that gracious lady might mean.

We are two people who are successfully raising an autistic child.  And we are still smiling.  Still standing.

Ultimately, I like to think of the whole incident this way.  We aren’t a power couple.  But we certainly aren’t a powerless one.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Trish and Vitamin B17

By Laura Yeager

I’ve had cancer twice, once in 2011 and again this year (2016).  During my first bout of cancer (breast cancer), my friend, Trish, kept her mouth shut and sat by while I was treated in a “mainstream” fashion; I received chemotherapy, radiation treatments and had a mastectomy.

I was cancer-free for four years, and then, a second cancer, an angiosarcoma, appeared on my breast which was treated with radiation.  It was determined that the angiosarcoma was a result of the radiation.  As you can guess, that was a huge blow.

Treatment for this cancer was another operation to cut out the bright-red blotch on my breast.

At this point, my friend could keep her mouth shut no longer.  You see, she is a big believer in alternative cancer treatments.  Specifically, she believes that people with cancer should consume B17, also known as amygdalin or laetrile.  B17 occurs naturally in the seeds of apricots, peaches and almonds. The only problem with this is that B17 is banned in the US and contains cyanide.

Believers in B17 also believe in a conspiracy theory that the United States is keeping the substance from the American public so that its wide-spread use won’t bring down the trillion dollar cancer industry.

So every day, I had to listen to Trish lecture me about how I should be taking B17 and somehow buying it on the black market.

This was extremely upsetting to me.  I didn’t believe that the “poison” would help me.  In fact, I thought it might kill me.

Trish went with me to my oncologist appointment, where she asked my doctor about the controversial substance.

“The efficacy of B17 was disproved in the 70s,” Dr. Bennet said.

“Well, you should watch some of these You Tube videos,” Trish argued.

“I don’t get my cancer knowledge from television,” Dr. Bennett sneered.

Trish didn’t let up.

At least watch this movie with me,” she said, referring to A World Without Cancer,” written and directed by G. Edward Griffin.  This movie told the B17 story.

Trish got it on You Tube, and we watched a bit of it.  It discussed how animals who ate foods with B17 in them did not get cancer.  It was making a good point, and I conceded that it was well-written, but I grew tired of it.  I guess I was just a mainstream girl.  I had never bought into alternative medicine.  I told her to turn the movie off.

“Well,” Trish said, “There are foods that contain trace amounts of B17, and I guess trace amounts would be better than nothing.  And these foods are legal.”

“Like what?”

“Like millet.”

“What’s millet?”

“It’s an ancient, gluten-free grain.  You can buy millet bread in health food stores.”

Tired of Trish badgering me about B17, I said, “OK, babe.  Go buy me some millet bread.”

To my surprise, Trish immediately got in her car and drove to the health food store, where she purchased me a loaf of millet bread, retailing at $5.99.

Needless to say, I’ve been consuming a slice of millet bread almost every day.  It’s delicious with butter.  Trish bought me the millet/zucchini version.

I’m not sure if this “wonder food” is keeping the cancer away, but I am sure that it’s keeping Trish out of my hair.

The Rising and Falling of My Boobs

By Laura Yeager

I first started stuffing my bra with cotton balls.  This was in third grade.  I was wearing a training bra--the kind with the elasticized cloth cup to accommodate breast growth.  I didn't overdo it; just a couple of cotton balls to make me look like I had something.

After I grew breasts, I stopped stuffing my bra.  In my teens, I had perfect breasts--white, smooth and firm.  34Cs.

I did go through a Victoria's Secret phase when I bought the bras that increase your breasts by two cup sizes.  This was in my 20s and 30s.

In my mid-40s, I did away with Victoria Secret bras and moved into nylon sports bras.  At this point, I wanted to diminish my cup size, not maximize it.  I was a DD due a 40 pound, middle-age weight gain.

At 48, something dreadful happened.  I got breast cancer.  To rid myself of it, I had a double mastectomy.  And guess what?  I had my plastic surgeon put in size B implants.

How things change....I wanted smaller breasts, not bigger ones. 

Things were fine and dandy for five years, and then, the cancer came back. 

I lost my remaining right breast tissue, and the surgeon removed the implant.

This is where I am now--lopsided.

I've been stuffing my right bra cup with a sock--a gym sock.  This cotton foot apparel became irritating--scratchy on my breast wound.

I have a prescription to get an official breast prosthesis, but I'm not ready for that yet.

To replace the annoying sock, I went to Wal-Mart and bought a polyester breast pad.  But this too is irritating.

Believe it or not, there are actually fake boobs at the thrift store.  Used fake boobs.  Ten bucks a set.  I thought of buying them for a second, but only for a second.

Now, I'm wearing a lightly padded bra and not putting anything in the right cup.  The cup often "deflates," sinks in on itself.  I know this looks strange, but I don't care.

I'm in the state of shock because of what I've been through.  Butchered.

When will I get that official prosthesis?

Maybe never.

Maybe I'll wear my new body with pride.  Why do I have to pretend there's something there when there's not?

I've come a long way.

I guess my breasts don't define me anymore.  They're just body parts, like feet.  Actually, they're artifacts of suffering.  Of survival.  They are proof that I did not succumb to the Big C.

They're fine the way they are--completely mismatched.

And I'm alive.

And that's all that matters.

Dealing With the Looming Cloud of the Possibility of Early Death

By Laura Yeager

Five years ago, I had breast cancer.  To rid myself of it, I had chemotherapy, radiation and a double mastectomy.

Flash forward five years.  One day, I noticed a strange, bright red splotch on my breast, the breast where the cancer had been.  The doctor did a biopsy of it, and the results came back malignant.  It was an angiosarcoma, and the suspected cause was the radiation treatment I’d had five years before.  This was a very rare form of cancer that, again, results sometimes from the radiation itself.  That which was meant to heal me, made me ill.

On June 10, 2016, I had surgery to remove the cancer.

Fine and dandy.  They got clean margins.  Then, something awful happened.  I was told that I had to have a CT scan to see if the cancer had spread throughout my body.  (Nobody told me this beforehand.)

Enter fear, despair and disappointment.  Enter the possibility of cancer and, therefore, the possibility of early death.

How am I dealing with this looming cloud of grief that is hanging over my head?

Below are some of my most useful techniques.


I know it’s there, but I push the fear out of my mind.  This is kind of like swatting away a nasty fly.  You wave your hand, and the pesky insect disappears for a second.  Repeat the process ad infinitum.


Cry, cry, cry, worry, worry, worry.  You cry until you have bruises under your eyes.  The worry makes you physically sick.


Lorazepam and chocolate ice cream.  When you can deal with the threat no longer, you pop an Ativan.  To your surprise, eating chocolate ice cream with real chocolate pieces does the same thing as the pill does.


My cousin, Mary, volunteers at a hospice.  She tells me that she makes ice cream sundaes for the patients every Saturday night.  You say you might be in that hospice soon.  She tells you she will make you an ice cream sundae every Saturday.  You both laugh.  Chuckling helps, but also gives you a strange, eerie feeling.


Get so busy that you forget.  The house needs cleaned.  The laundry needs done.  The dinner needs cooked.  By engaging in the day-to-day necessities, you somehow fail to remember your situation.


Retail therapy helps everything.  You go to JC Penney in search of brown, V-neck, short-sleeved tee shirts.  You’ve previously been to every store in a ten-mile radius and haven’t been able to locate them.  You find the shirts!  Your great retail success wipes out all bad thoughts.  Sometimes shopping can cure anything.


Ask God for help.  This is my most used technique in dealing with my fear of cancer.  Jesus saves.  He created the universe.  He can save me from metastasis.


Enlist the voices of friends.  Dissecting all the ins and outs of the issue with my best buddies is hugely relieving.


Diane, my close friend, also has cancer.  Talking to her, who is fighting the same battle I am, is an exquisite balm for the pain I’m feeling.  She tells you that she feels that her ship is sinking.  I say mine is, too.  Sharing this little cliché is like taking Taxol or B17 (depending on your point of view.)


I hang onto any shred of positivity I can find.  I found the cancer early on.  I had it cut out in its early stages.  The cancer was very small and only on the surface of the skin.


I tell myself, “If I have cancer, everything will be OK.”  Sometimes, we have to be our own Mom.  Coo “Everything will be fine.”


Face reality.  Sing “Stop Your Sobbing.”  Chrissie Hynde to the rescue.


Writing is my true salvation.  Analysis and evaluation, with a bit of humor thrown in, are keys.  Hence this little blog post.

In a few days, I’ll know whether I have more cancer in my body or if I’m cancer-free.  I’ll discover the answer to the current huge question of my life.

Until then, I’ll continue to use these little strategies to get through the day.

It could be worse.  I could be drowning my sorrows in food or alcohol or illicit drugs.  But over the years, I’ve developed self-control with what I put into my body.

Ironically, exercise is not on this list.  And we all know exercise is an excellent stress killer.

In truth, I’m too weak from the surgery to exercise.

It’s as simple as this:  I will keep calm, and employ the techniques above. 

What else is a body to do?