I got an email last week from my younger daughter saying that she’d been diagnosed with breast cancer and is scheduled to have a double mastectomy in mid-June.
“I’m not afraid as much for myself as my children,” she wrote. She has a 5-year-old daughter and a 2-year-old son. But then she added, “OK, yes I am — hearing the description of some of the procedures was terrifying and not at all what I thought I knew.”
I don’t know much about the procedures, either, and what I do know horrifies me, too. A dear friend of mine had a double mastectomy just a few months ago, and she told me, “It’s hard. It’s so hard, and my heart breaks for anyone who has to go through it.”
I keep thinking that if men were the target of breast cancer, the treatment would be more advanced and more humane than it is. Mastectomies are barbaric, and I have no doubt that in the future people will look back at what we call modern medicine and be appalled in the same way contemporary doctors have to be appalled at what happened to George Washington. Washington contracted pneumonia, but it was the primitive treatment he got that killed him. Doctors took five pints of his blood, causing shock, dehydration and asphyxiation.