[Editor's Note: Since submission of this member article, Greta Christina has had her surgery and is now recovering at home. Visit her blog for updates.]
Greetings, my siblings in humanity!
This past week, the secular community was sent reeling with the bad news that a voice of reason and promoter of social justice, Greta Christina, had been diagnosed with stage one endometrial cancer.
I am a licensed home health LPN with certifications in geriatrics and brain and spinal cord injuries, having gotten my education through a program with the University of North Florida. While I do not specialize in women's health or cancer, I do have some experience with these issues. I have been a healthcare provider off and on all of my adult life, caring for (and far too often burying) loved ones with HIV-related illnesses, when many members of the medical community, as well as a number of religious people and entities, turned them away to fend for themselves. I have also cared for sick friends and relatives dealing with chronic and/or debilitating illnesses and conditions.
I guess we all have our place in life and this is mine.
The very word "cancer" is like a jolt to the system and it is natural for the first emotion to be fear. Greta's revelation of her cancer was for me yet another reminder of the necessity for increased emphasis on women's health care. Something that is important to remember is that every cancer victim's situation is as unique as he or she is as a person. The cancer Greta has, stage one endometrial cancer, is the most common form of uterine cancer.
While we know that certain substances are carcinogenic in nature, or that certain lifestyles make someone more prone to cancer, it is often not possible to pinpoint the exact cause of cancer in a person, as it might be a combination of factors. We also all know of someone who rationalizes unhealthy elements by having had a relative who smoked three packs a day, drank bourbon for breakfast, and never ate a food that wasn't deep-fried, but managed to live to be 120 years old, and even then was perfectly healthy, but died after being hit by a bus.
Despite that uncertainty of the cause, there seems to be a link between endometrial cancer and increased levels of estrogen. Estrogen replacement without the use of progesterone is believed to increase the rate of this type of cancer. Cancer is basically the uncontrolled growth of cells in a certain part of the body, and high levels of estrogen have been shown to increase the growth of the uterine lining to the point that cancer can develop. Endometrial cancer can also stem from genetic or environmental factors.
But what matters most is her course for treatment. Greta's situation is actually quite optimistic. While nothing is certain until after her surgery, her oncologist seems to believe that the cancer was diagnosed quite early and will require only a hysterectomy to remove all cancer from her body. While the survival rate for later stages of this type of cancer can be dismal, for early detection and treatment of endometrial cancer, the survival rate is an incredible 95%! So we have no reason not to believe that we will have Greta with us for a long time, encouraging and inspiring us in our quest for social justice.
In the meantime, there are a number of things that others can do to help. In Greta's entry where she bravely shared the health crisis that she faces, on top of grieving for the father that she recently lost, she spoke of financial concerns. She asked for donations at this link: https://www.paypal.com/us/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_flow&SESSION=QAKEIcx5WUEk0a5BLNjY9ihydX4K_VTinFCm5x_iVsv1r8zokz0Vo5RImxa&dispatch=5885d80a13c0db1f8e263663d3faee8d0b7e678a25d883d0bcf119ae9b66ba33 She also suggested that we buy her book to help.
Well, the showering of love by the secular community for this beloved lady was beyond her wildest dreams. She now asks that if anyone wishes to make a donation, we could send one to causes that are close to her heart: http://foundationbeyondbelief.org/LLS-lightthenight and http://www.campquest.org/ Even in the midst of personal trial, this woman is so gracious as to think of others besides herself.
In my own experience, something I have seen is the importance of a positive mental attitude. A positive mental attitude not only leads a patient to live a healthy lifestyle if they are not already, but it increases the quality of life immensely. I would like to remind everyone that we should not only focus our efforts on Greta, but also on her wife, Ingrid. When one's spouse is facing a health crisis, the feelings of frustration and helplessness can often be overwhelming. Ingrid is also in need of love and support.
This will be a challenging time for them both, but in later years, as they look back, they will see that this trial sterengthened their marriage.
In closing, Greta and Ingrid, if you read this, please know that just as you are united in a marriage, you are united with the secular community. You are not alone.
We at Secular Woman are with you, and we will love and honor you in sickness and in health.
Love and peace to you both.
– Rogelio Tavera is a Secular Woman member and a licensed nurse.